Monday, April 28, 2014

Let's Get Back On The Phones, People!

The great Wendy Katten has sent out a reminder that our two charter bills still have a chance this week in the legislature, and that we should be calling our representatives today with messages of support. I myself get lost in the parliamentary maneuvering, but it appears to me that Wendy is right. Our bills are alive and we need for you to chime in via telephone. 

Additionally, Raise Your Hand and More Than A Score have been meeting with lawmakers to press the case. That's the heavy lifting of advocacy, sitting down with a lawmaker and trying to make a case they've been heavily lobbied/programmed to reject. I hate personal lobbying; I always feel like someone beat me to the punch. 

So, here they are. Our bills.

HB3754/SB2627, which essentially gets rid of the appointed state charter commission, the obscure board of charter enthusiasts that inserts charter schools into local communities over the wishes of the elected school boards in those communities. Since the action here is in the Senate (it has already passed the House), this is a bill for which you need to call your senator--to support SB2627. 

As a snarky recommendation, if your senator won't budge on this one, and I can think of one particular senator who won't budge on this one, you could suggest that the charter commission's powers be limited to school districts inside the legislative districts of the representatives who voted against HB3754, because these people obviously don't care about their local school boards' jurisdictions.

Be assured there's a lot of aggressive lobbying against this bill. Recall the troubling email sent out by their association. And there's also the permanent soft campaign by Concept; here for example is a photo of the two Concept kids who were apparently taken on the 93 mile (each way) trip out to Rockford to meet with Senator Stadelman. In this photo, they appear to have driven out to Glen Ellyn. Here are some other Concept kids with Rahm. Visits from Biss, Steans, Jesse White, Dan Burke, Gery Chico, Toni Berrios, the list goes on. Pretty impressive constant-contact effort, I must say. Elected school boards may very well be doomed. If I were running a neighborhood school, with all its pesky special ed and ELL kids, and the homeless kids, and the revolving door of people moving in and out of my neighborhood, I'd probably ask one of the network people stalking the halls like a jackal to make himself useful and schedule some politician face time. 

HB6005/SB588 (formerly SB 3030), the excellent Charter Accountability Act. This one still needs to clear the House and the Senate and also needs your support, so you should call your representative to support HB6005 and then call your senator to support SB588. This is such a good, good bill, with so many necessary remedies. Take these lotteries, for example. They're so sketchy. I've been driving by UNO Rogers Park's marquee for months now, and it's been advertising for enrollments every single day. You could build a waiting list for a torture chamber with advertising like that. The resulting lotteries need to be managed in a publicly transparent way-- particularly in UNO but I suspect everywhere.  Look at the lottery provision in HB6005/SB588:

That means ISBE will be handling the lottery, thank you very much. These so-called waiting lists and these shrouded-in-mystery lotteries need some sunlight, and this bill will provide it. No wonder they're busing kids to Springfield to oppose it. Here's the waiting list language.

Here's another thing. Look at the push-out language in the bill. As you know, some charter chains achieve an inflated graduation rate by sculpting the enrollment so that only the kids likely to graduate stay in the school. If kids don't fit in, if they're off-track, if zero tolerance doesn't quite work for them,  they're made to understand that they should probably find another school. And why not? Even families that want to stay in a charter school after a disagreement are encouraged to take a hike. Remember this gem?

I guess our society still needs to decide whether the push-out phenomenon is the direction we want to go in public education, just like it needs to decide if self-segregation is the direction we want to go, but meanwhile, until that's settled, here's some excellent language to account for push-outs.

There's a ton more. Read the whole thing.It's a great bill; there's nothing unfair about it; it provides much, much needed sunlight into a publicly funded sector that currently operates almost completely in the shadows. I actually think it would be good for the sector and its reputation, even though they make it sound like an existential threat. The bill needs your help.  Call you representative for HB6005, and call your senator for SB588.

By the way, there are a bunch of other good bills out there. PURE has been testifying on behalf of some legislation around testing. It deserves support. We really need a staff person up here at RPNPS to follow bills as they move through Springfield.

Update: Here's a nice little composite of just a bit of Concept's nonstop political meet-n-greet.

I see Mike Noland there, no surprise. Working on a piece on him. I've seen him in action and it isn't pretty.

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