Chicago Parents Strike Back

What a year this has been for Chicago Public School families!

We started the year with our new mayor and his appointed school CEO pushing a longer school day ( 7 1/2 hours) onto families, teachers and students. The mayor continues to cry “it’s all about the children!” as his reasoning for the longer school day and extended year. Parents who object to such a lengthy day have organized and have pushed back.

PURE points out that the  mayor’s children attend a private school that has a shorter day and year, but somehow manages to be an excellent school. Raise Your Hand wants to see the research that says a longer day equals better outcomes. Six Point Five to Thrive is a parents organization that agrees with the longer day, just not 7.5 hours long. Raise Your Hand has survey results that back up Six Point Five’s message too. Everyone wants to know how the mayor plans to pay for a longer school day and year with CPS’s already huge budget shortfall.

One of the schools that did take the mayor’s money to extend their day has seen it backfire. The parents don’t like it. “The parents’ survey found that the extended hours, along with long commutes, has some parents complaining about school days of up to 10 hours for some students. Skinner North is a selective enrollment school and its students come from across the city.” While Skinner North is a selective enrollment, we must remember that a lot of magnet and charter schools draw students from around the city, thus making the issue of  8-year-olds’, like my own daughter, commutes relevant.

This week’s CPS Board Meeting was a convergence of pissed off parents ready to exert their power. Unfortunately the board only listens to their boss, the mayor. No amount of parent outrage, no matter how logical, could convince the appointed board to put down their rubber stamps.

And there appears to be a growing movement of parents who are calling for an elected board.

So what’s a parent to do? The mayor pleads for us to not to move to the suburbs. He doesn’t have to worry since we can’t sell our homes in order to move!

I suggest we make sure to vote for our respective Local School Councils. It’s our only connection to the Board of Education and City Hall. Oh, didn’t know that it’s election year for LSCs? It was announced at a board meeting! Weren’t you there? I know being active in your LSC may seem like a waste of time in the face of a mayor who can get the Illinois legislature to give him the power to extend the school day when he requests. But, for me, it seems the only way. Other than quitting work and homeschooling. And my daughter would revolt and run away to the circus.

I often have to remind myself that I live in Chicago for many reasons. We’re fortunate to attend one of the better schools in the system too. But that doesn’t mean I want to sit back and watch the rest of the system be privatized and all of our children tested to the point where they hate to learn. Selective enrollment, charter, magnet or neighborhood school, I see us all coming together for our children. At least we have each other.


Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist, a mom and a writer. She blogs about the intersection of feminism and motherhood at Veronica lives on the north side of Chicago with her husband, their spunky daughter and doxie named Piper. You can connect with Veronica at Facebook or Twitter.

6 thoughts on “Chicago Parents Strike Back

  • March 30, 2012 at 6:26 am

    I’m in the suburbs and you may have to do what I’ve done – send my kids to private school and pay for it. It sucks but it’s the only way I can make sure my kids get a good education (our public school is on year 2 of the No Child Left Behind naughty list)

    • April 1, 2012 at 10:02 am

      More and more good schools are ending up on probation because the AYP number is going up to ridiculous levels that cannot be achieved . Remember that it has to hit 100% by 2014. This year it’s in the high 80’s, 2013 it’s in the 90’s. This is UNREALISTIC and falsely labeling very good schools . Parents need to ignore these absurd ratings and comparisons and check out schools for themselves. Talk to parents who have children already there. Remember too that private schools are not scored and rated, so you don’t really know that a private school is any better than the public one down the block.
      Just some things to think about !

    • April 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Seriously? That’s not an option for everyone, especially in the current economy. It’s nice that YOU have that option, but what a ridiculous statement to make, as if even most people in the upper-middle class can do this (particularly with 2 or more children!) even with major sacrifices involved, never mind the regular middle, working and lower class families that abound….

      Two whole years on the NCLB list? Try living in a district where your neighborhood school has been on that list for over 12 years. BADLY failing. Failing to the point where less than 24% of third graders meet the minimal reading standards of the ISAT test. Where less than 40% meet the math or science standards. Where gangs are so prolific even in a grammar school that it’s literally unsafe and surrounded by 4 blue-light cameras. In a neighborhood where a single-family fixer-upper is MINIMUM $750k, and a 2bd/2ba condo is minimum $250k.

      What do we do? Selective enrollment and hope for the best. We’ve been fortunate. Both our kids attend CPS gifted schools. The caveat is 3.5 hours in the car per day driving those two kids to those two DIFFERENT CPS gifted schoils that are only about 7 miles apart. The staggered start/end times mean 8:00-9:30am and 2:00-4:00pm in the car for me and the kids. Fun times. We are never home from kindergarten until 4pm. My kids already can’t have after-school activities or play-dates. And only one of our two schools has implemented the extra 45-min for recess.

      Obviously you’re not sacrificing nearly as much as the average American family in these times, even with a 100k per year income, if you can so flippantly suggest that as a rotely feasible option for most of us.


  • April 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    *remotely feasible option…


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