Our schools are the cornerstone of our community and are the best representation of the diversity of the 49th Ward. Our six neighborhood public schools, which serve predominantly low-income black and brown children, have been systematically underfunded for decades. I plan to work at the local level to bring more resources to the table so we can support the programs our schools need to boost enrollment, address capital improvement needs, and bring more community members into relationship with our schools. In City Council I will advocate for more accountability in Chicago Public Schools, an elected representative school board, and more equitable funding of all public schools. I will listen to the community’s request to freeze charter expansion in the 49th Ward until our public schools are equitably funded.
Fully funding our public schools from pre-K through high school must be a priority moving forward. Study after study has shown that investment in local education is investment in the community as whole. Our neighborhood schools have not received adequate funds for over 20 years. We can’t afford to wait any longer. We must fight now to ensure every school in our city receives equitable funding needed to help students achieve their potential. Specifically, special education programs are underfunded and children who need additional services are often not adequately served. Advocating for fully-funded special education programming is a priority and one way to bridge the educational inequality gap for students of the 49th Ward. The Progressive Caucus and our local school councils have made strides in the past year in getting more money for special ed programs. I look forward to working with them to continue to push for additional funds to give each child a chance to succeed. Enrichment programs such as IB, Stem and programs for the Performing Arts are also necessary and require additional support to bring them to our schools. I will work with the principals and Local School Councils of our schools and provide them with the support they need to make sure our students have access to the programs they need to excel.
With 400,000 students in 600 schools, we are going to need more than 250 nurses and 275 social workers. The current practice of splitting time between schools results in huge caseloads. Given the physical and mental health needs of our students, every school needs to have a nurse and a social worker on site all day, every day. Our budgets need to prioritize the health of our children!
The principals, teachers, and staff at our local public schools do their best to create welcoming environments and to meet the needs of all of our students, but unfortunately, several of our schools have lower enrollment than desired. Because of CPS' per pupil budgeting formula, low enrollment results in dramatically lowered school budgets that leave principals with barely enough funding to keep their schools open. We need to advocate for improvements and showcase programming that will make more parents want to send their children to 49th Ward public schools. As alderman, I will attend Board of Education and Local School Council meetings when necessary, advocate for capital budgets that allow us to make necessary updates to our school buildings (e.g., fixing crumbling roofs at Kilmer, funding library enhancements, repairing playgrounds), and push for the introduction of enrichment programs into our local schools’ curriculum (e.g., IB, STEM, Performing Arts).
Accountability in CPS
Unlike most of Illinois' school districts, Chicago’s school board is currently appointed by the mayor. The closing of 50 public schools in 2013 was a devastating blow to students, families and teachers across the city. The Board of Education's lack of accountability to the community has resulted in decisions that are made against the public interest, which is unacceptable. Parents and community members should have a say in who sits on the school board. We need to be able hold the school board accountable and ensure diverse representation of CPS families in decision making roles. I will fully support efforts to establish an elected school board. I am, and will continue to be, a firm supporter of Local School Councils because they are elected and accountable to the community. They serve as a check against policies that act against the best interest of our students, like the closures of many CPS schools. I will fight any school closures in our ward and will be the advocate our public schools deserve, both in the 49th Ward and in City Council.