Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Chicago Board of Education Speech I Never Gave

A little over a week ago, on June 27, I attended the monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting with some parents from the school where I was recently elected to sit on the Local School Council (LSC).  After getting in line around 6:30 am to sign up to speak and then waiting until after noon to have my turn to share my concerns, the Board informed us that only two people were allowed to speak from McPherson.  Of course, we decided that the parents, the ones with the most invested in these concerns, should speak, but I was disappointed that I never got to have my say.  So I give you my speech here:

CPS School Board Meeting 6-27-12

Hello, my name is Katie Osgood and I come to you today as a concerned citizen, a teacher (though not in CPS), and a newly-elected Local School Council member of McPherson Elementary School.

I wanted to let the Board know about some of the consequences of their unfunded longer school day mandate.  Thanks to the longer school day, McPherson Elementary school is in chaos.  Next year, they will be losing two classroom teaching positions to pay for the aides necessary to cover recess among other things. This will force class sizes higher and cause some classes to become splits (and since most of you up there have no background in education, this means two grades in one classroom.)  In addition, due to massive scheduling changes to accommodate the new school day length, 4 more teachers are being displaced.

I don’t know how many of you have ever been to an LSC meeting, but they are usually quite tame and uneventful proceedings.  But at the last McPherson LSC meeting, they had to hold it in the auditorium due to dozens of angry parents and students who showed up to protest losing so many beloved teachers.  Mothers literally wept, teachers begged, even the principal shed a tear in the five-hour-long meeting.

“What if we tried this…what if we cut that?”  But no matter how that discretionary money was divvied out, there just wasn’t enough to save everything.

So now, students will be sitting in more crowded classrooms, with teachers scurrying around to meet the needs of two grades and two curriculums.  The school is losing valued, committed, Nationally Board Certified teachers who brought in sports programs, girl scouts, and founded the Friends of McPherson fundraising group.  Thanks to your policies, the kids at McPherson will be in worse learning environments, for longer.

This is not reform, this is sabotage.

Parents are crying out for smaller classes.  But we don’t have the money you say.  Parents are begging for their favorite experienced teachers to stay.  But still there is no money.  Parents want you to give their schools more resources so they don’t have to be shut down and turned over to some private corporation like AUSL or some charter operator.  Nope, sorry.  It’s the finances.  Parents even occupied their school to stop your cruel policies, but no, nothing can be done.  Parents beg for libraries, for social workers, for nurses, for art and music, for gym class.  But there just isn’t enough, we have a deficit.  Parents plead, why won’t you fix the crumbling building where I send my precious child everyday?  Hey, we might close your school someday, we have 60 charters in the works, not going to happen.  Parents are crying out for everything that is in this document [Hold up The School Chicago’s Children Deserve Book].

I have never heard a parent ask for the Common Core.  I have never heard a parent beg for more standardized testing.  I have never once heard a parent request that their child is placed with an untrained teacher.  I don’t know any parents asking for their taxpayer money to be spent on glossy brochures and fancy advertising campaign for one of your new schools. And I don’t know a single parent who wants a longer school day at the expense of quality time in the classroom.

You don’t listen.  You don’t care.  Which is why I, and hundreds of others, are joining the fight to get an elected school board here in Chicago.  

Listen to the parents.  They know what their children need.  And McPherson’s parents are right.  They deserve better.  And if you won’t give that to them, then we-The People-will find someone else who will.

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