What is a Ward Superintendent?

chicago-flag-watercolor-mike-maher.jpg

Have you ever wondered what a Ward Superintendent actually does?  Or, did you even know that your ward has a superintendent?  Join Hermosa Neighborhood Association at our September 23 General Meeting to meet with ward superintendents and have your questions answered!  

In order to allow the superintendents time to address questions adequately, we are asking that you submit questions ahead of time by filling out this form.  There will be time for questions at the meeting, should they arise, but we want to collect as many as possible ahead of time so they can be addressed thoroughly.  

If you have any specific questions about the meeting, please contact HNA directly via email or by reaching out on social media.

 

The School Funding Bill and Why You Should Care

What is SB-1?

Senate Bill 1 is an attempt by Illinois legislators to fix the inequitable school funding system here in the state.  Illinois currently has the most inequitable public school funding system in the country.  Illinois comes in last place for the amount of state money contributed to individual school districts and since most individual district money comes from property taxes, Illinois has the largest gap between wealthy and poor districts in the nation.

In 2016, Governor Rauner convened a commission made up of legislators and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) superintendent and Illinois Secretary of Education.  This panel devised a formula that would equalize funding across school districts by taking into account the amount of money each district needs to adequately educate each student ("individual advocacy target") through increased state funds.  The state considers a district's capacity for local funding and what the state already gives; this is the baseline the state would use for calculating how much additional funding is needed.

"Those targets are calculated by taking into account a given district’s 'essential elements' – such as the costs for professional development, class size ratios, technology and about two dozen other items – and their cost of implementation based on demographic differences, along with staff salaries based on regional variation," says Matt Masterson of WTTW.  Under this bill, no school district would see a decrease in state funding.

What does this mean for Chicago

Since Chicago makes up about one-fifth of the state's school population, Chicago Public Schools would receive about 20% of the funding guaranteed by SB-1.  Many critics of the bill see this as a "bailout" for Chicago since the district would receive more money and an offset for legacy pension payments.  Others say the district would still be responsible for pension payments under SB-1 and the state funding would only affect per pupil spending, bringing Chicago on par with the rest of the state in this regard.

Paying for SB-1

This bill will only be funded if the Illinois legislature passes a budget, which it has failed to do three years in a row.  Currently, Illinois already spends about $11 billion on education annually and would need between $3 and $6 billion more to fund this bill.  Likely, Illinois would have to raise taxes in order to fully fund the legislation.

Rauner's Amendatory Veto

First, a note: only a few states allow governors to make amendatory vetos.  This means that a governor may veto a bill but send back changes to the chambers.  If the chambers pass those changes with a majority vote, the bill is passed; however, the chambers may choose to override the veto completely or the vote can fail, meaning the veto of the original bill stands.  

In late July, Rauner vetoed SB-1 with amendments: namely, $100 million for a "tuition tax credit program."  Under this law, $100 million in property taxes would be diverted into a fund to be used by students to attend private schools in Illinois.  Since property taxes are used to fund schools under the current system and SB-1, this deferment amounts to public school money being used to pay for students' private school tuition.  Right now, the legislation proposes that a family of four making up to $113,775 would qualify for a scholarship, which is 67% of Illinois families today.

This amendment to SB-1 is seen by critics and public education advocates as a school voucher program that would divert money normally given to public schools to private schools which do not receive the same oversight of programming by the state as their public counterparts.

A provision of the recently passed budget in Illinois stipulates that schools will not receive funding until all budget concerns are resolved, which means schools could be waiting for this veto fight to resolve.  Most schools in Illinois have started the year now and are waiting for funding to remain open for the school year.  You can read more about school vouchers and their impact on the state's children here.  

Why should you care?

Children in the US are guaranteed equality in public education.  That education should be fully-funded, equitable, and rigorous.  Things like school voucher programs undermine a child's access to free and equitable education by diverting money that should be going to public schools to private institutions that receive little or no government oversight.  HNA has long advocated for the funding of our neighborhood public schools in Chicago.  With proper funding, these institutions can thrive as community centers that provide all children with equitable, rigorous, and diverse educational opportunities.  

Even if you don't have children or those who attend public schools, your tax dollars (property and otherwise) fund these institutions.  As a taxpayer, you have a say in how this money is spent and you can advocate for fair and equitable public education by contacting your representatives and exercising your right to vote.  "[Rauner's proposed tuition tax credit program] would both undermine public schools around IL by incentivizing businesses and individuals to pay for scholarships to get a full tax write-off, and it would siphon off $100 [million] from the public good," says Raise Your Hand IL.  

From Raise Your Hand Action:

So what’s next? The Senate has already overriden Rauner's veto of SB1, but it’s unlikely they would have enough votes in the House. If the Senate overrides the amendatory veto, but the House doesn’t have enough votes, the bill dies. It’s also possible both sides will begin to negotiate and find some middle ground, but from what we’re following in the press, it’s not looking positive.

Take an action step, write an email to your own legislator, and then share our materials with your friends and relatives elsewhere in Illinois and ask them to write or call their legislators and the Governor (217-782-0244).

SB1 is #NotaBailout, and our state can and must do better. Thanks for joining in the fight to protect and support public schools in Illinois.

 

CPS Budget Cuts and Impact on Hermosa Schools

Though this news broke a few days ago, it is still important for our community to address the inequity of funding in our public schools.  HNA has long advocated for equal funding of neighborhood schools, the use of TIF money to fund schools, and a fervent opposition to the expansion of charter schools.  The most recent round of budget cuts and layoffs will negatively affect almost every school in Hermosa as well as several other schools in the City's most impoverished areas.

Kelvyn Park School

Kelvyn Park School

Currently, Kelvyn Park School stands to lose a little over 15% of its budget, or about $794,200.  This cut in the budget will result in 11 staff layoffs for the 2017-18 school year, seven teachers and four Extra Support Personnel (ESPs).  William P. Nixon Elementary, one of Hermosa's two neighborhood elementary schools, is receiving a $282,292 budget cut.  This is on top of substantial budget cuts in 2016, 2015, and 2014. This will result in another cut in staff positions and a reduction in art spending, after school spending, and reduced ability to invest in technology for our new Common Core curriculum.

In total, Hermosa schools will lose 41 staff members, 25 of whom are teachers.  Kelvyn Park School and Foreman High School are the hardest hit, with 14 total teacher layoffs (seven per school).  Even more unsettling is the fact that the largest budget cuts and layoffs will affect Chicago's poorest children.  Thomas Kelly High School is losing the most staff: 11 teachers and 10 ESPs, the most of any school in Chicago.  TKHS also happens to be in one of Chicago's poorer neighborhoods, Brighton Park.  Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in Bronzeville is losing eight teachers and two ESPs.  Schools in West Rogers Park, Little Village, and East Garfield Park will lose 30 staff members compared to one total staff loss (one ESP position) at the City's highest rated schools in the wealthiest neighborhoods (Walter Payton, Northside College Prep, and Lincoln Park High School).    

The budget cuts are primarily due to a change in Federal and State funding, for Title 1 (Federal funds for schools with high poverty) and for Federal Special Education (SPED) Funding. State funding (SGSA) for improvised schools also declines.  

According to a DNAInfo article, "While schools will get $200 more per student during the 2017-18 school year than they did for the 2016-17 school year, the overall CPS budget will shrink by about $43 million...."  Also, despite an increase in the special education student population at most schools, many are receiving less money for SPED than previous years.  Special Education modifications and accommodations are a federal mandate so that means more will be cut from core instruction.

The current CPS budget relies on a $250 million payment from the Illinois State government that was just vetoed by Governor Rauner.  CPS has not made any comment on how the hole from the state will be filled; instead, only days after releasing the 2017-18 budget, CPS also released a list of employee layoffs and how those will impact individual schools.  

It is important, now more than ever, for all Hermosa residents (and residents all over the city) to get involved with individuals and organizations that work to promote equitable and fully-funded public education for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or geographic location in Chicago.  You can reach out to organizations like Raise Your Hand IL, The Chicago Teachers Union, or Stand for Children (to name a few) and get involved in advocating for students in Chicago and Illinois.  You can also call, email, or write to ALL of your elected officials and demand that they support equitable public education for all students.  Lastly, ensure you are registered to vote so you can support candidates of your choice in all local and national elections.

HNA Affordable Housing Statement for 4K Diversey Partners LLC

Recently there was a story regarding a zoning amendment for The Fields development located at 4000-4180 West Diversey Ave. 

You can read that story here :

 https://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20170711/avondale/the-fields-paul-fishbein-4k-diversey-partners-4000-w-diversey-avenue

HNA was mentioned in the story as it pertains to writing a letter to the Alderman. Here is that letter in its entirety here: 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B86BIFyJYGvsZHhfSVRTOFJzXzQ/view?usp=sharing

TIF Illumination recap

We had a really great conversation on TIFs and where the money is going in Hermosa earlier this month with The TIF Illumination Project.

There is over $10 million trapped in TIFs in Hermosa that could be going to improving our parks, schools and streets TODAY.

Over the past 30 years some $76 million has been spent on TIF related projects in or near Hermosa, including $26.5 million on the Brickyard Mall and over $6 million on building two Home Depots in, or near, Hermosa.

Educate yourself and then ask the question.... are your tax dollars being spent in an ideal way?

Below is the presentation deck and the podcast 

Presentation

Podcast

Education Workshop | April 29, 2017

Understanding Chicago Public Schools and its sheer size and numerous requirements can be a difficult task for any parent.  In recent years, CPS has closed schools, added testing requirements, created a common application for selective enrollment schools, and even implemented new graduation requirements for 8th and 12th graders.  Often, our neighborhood schools are underfunded and understaffed which means students don't have access to rigorous classes, extracurricular activities, or individualized attention or support inside the classroom.  All of this, taken together, can be daunting to understand especially if you have students in elementary classrooms.  The weight of standardized tests, grades, attendance, and school performance can seem unimportant to a parent of a first or second grader, but is much more relevant to parents of middle schoolers.   The goals of this workshop are to: help parents understand how CPS is structured; how schools in our neighborhood are rated and what those ratings mean; how standardized tests impact students at all grade levels; and how the high school application process works.

This Saturday, April 29, 2017, HNA is hosting an Education Workshop for parents of elementary-age children throughout Chicago.  Our hosts - board members Jenna Sigman and Alejandra Fleck - want to support parents of elementary-age students as they go through the CPS system from kindergarten to 12th grade and beyond.  We will introduce parents to the Illinois School Report Card and how to understand the information contained in their child's school report card.  Many of the statistics can seem abstract or confusing so we will shed light on their importance and relevance and how to read the reports to best serve your child's needs.  We will also discuss the CPS standardized tests and how they impact a student throughout their elementary and secondary education process.  These test scores are especially important for any student applying to selective enrollment, charter, magnet, or other application-based schools in the city of Chicago.  These test scores may become even more important as CPS seeks to require all 8th grade students to fill out the CPS common application before they receive their diploma.

This workshop is free and will be in English and Spanish and will offer participants an opportunity to interact with others and discuss topics together.  We want to arm you with the tools necessary to take charge of your child's education to ensure he/she is getting the most out of his/her CPS experience.  No RSVP is necessary so we hope to see you this Saturday!

Summary from our March 18th meeting

Thanks everyone who attended our meeting and our luncheon afterwards! Special thanks to Oak Park Regional Housing Center for talking about how to create inclusionary- and integrated-communities.

We will use this information over the coming months with community planning as well as with how to be a more welcoming organization.

After our meeting, which was held for the first time at Nixon Elementary in the library, some HNA attendees and board members went to El Azteca Poncitlan to debrief and talk about what we learned. Below is an attachment for the meeting notes and the two presentations given. 

Recap from previous community garden leaders meeting

In this meeting we recapped the agreement we came to with the developer in terms of their responsibility of the site as well as funding. We also reviewed an updated site concept courtesy of Chris Gent, the landscape architect for the site, and provided feedback. Some items that attendees suggested were the addition of a compost and a toolshed. 

Our next meeting will be Tuesday, April 18th at 7:00PM. We will decide a meeting location closer to the meeting. In the meantime, please download and review the meeting notes and site design (click on the photo above for site design PDF) as well as answer our poll regarding the best meeting time. 

Board Meeting Updates

The Board of Directors has been busy over the past few months! We elected new officers, appointed new board members, and past a budget for the year. We will reveal the latest updates from our February 27th board meeting in April. For now please check out our last three previous board meeting minutes.