Dear Ms. Byrd-Bennett,
As Chicago parents and community members, we are deeply concerned with the direction of our school district. You are the fourth CEO of Chicago Public Schools in the last two years. Our district has lacked leadership and a vision that supports our children and our communities for too long. There has been—and, frankly, still is—chaos on Clark St.
Given the instability at the highest levels of CPS, it is irresponsible for you to entertain any notions of closing, transforming or otherwise privatizing any neighborhood schools for a period of at least two years. Additionally, we ask that no further charter schools be opened for a period of at least two years. School actions like these have a devastating effect on children and the communities in which they live. They exacerbate unequal opportunity to learn.
Your tenure in CPS is too short. Regardless of your intentions, it is not possible for you to understand the enormous complexities in our system and the unique challenges facing our neighborhood schools. Some of these challenges are the result of larger socio-economic problems in our city, but many are the direct result of CPS policies that have sabotaged and destabilized neighborhood schools. Since 1995, racial disparities in educational outcomes have increased.
You may not have first-hand knowledge of this, but the learning conditions in many of our schools are deplorable. Children recently went to the hospital after eating lunches contaminated with rat droppings. Classrooms overheat in the summer and freeze in the winter. Roofs leak, playgrounds are unsafe, textbooks are outdated and classes are too crowded. Fixing these and other problems are the “school actions” that should consume your attention and energy every day, not mapping out plans to close schools.
For too long, CPS has ignored parent and community voices. After thousands of parents protested last year’s school actions, forces aligned with CPS paid protestors to support the district’s plans. And the district continues to give preferential treatment and additional resources to private turnaround and charter operators—further destabilizing neighborhood schools—despite their inferior academic performance.
Upon your appointment, you pledged to build coalitions and re-establish trust in the district. In that spirit of collaboration, we request a meeting with you within the next two weeks to discuss the future of our schools. CPS parents, teachers and students need strong leadership at the head of our district.
But, ultimately, we are the ones whose lives are affected by your decisions. We deserve not just to be heard. We deserve a seat at the decision-making table. We are the ones who know best what our children need.
Parents 4 Teachers
Unite Here Local 1
19th Ward Parents
Teachers for Social Justice
Logan Square Neighborhood Association
Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church
Southside Together Organizing for Power
Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign
Parents United for Responsible Education
Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice
If your organization would like to endorse this letter calling for a 2-year moratorium on school closings in CPS, contact ChicagoTeachersSolidarity@gmail.com and firstname.lastname@example.org