The Chicago Public Schools officials will no longer be able to close a school without input from neighborhood residents and parents, under a new law signed by Gov. Pat Quinn that neighborhood activists say increases transparency and public accountability in schools.
The new law says Chicago’s public schools must create a 10-year master facility plan to chart its future school repair and construction investments and it must be done with involvement of educators, parents and community members. The law will ensure that CPS provides fair and efficient use of available facilities, related allocation of resources to different schools, school closures, consolidations and new building construction.
The two most important parts of SB 630, according to Bridget Murphy of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), are the sunshine provisions and “clear rules of engagements” for such things like school closures. “Without (this law) at the end of the school year, CPS could close a school,” Murphy said. “This way, it seems like there's a lot more opportunity for meaningful parent and community engagement. It creates more of a space for true school--community comprehensive planning,” she added.
Parents and community members will now be able to track how Chicago’s Public Schools spend money meant for repair and construction and facility spending via detailed annual capital budgets and the annual capital spending reports. The new law also sets standards for how facilities can be used in educational programs. “We’ll have a better sense of capital spending so we can make sure the money spent in our schools is fair and equitable,” Murphy said.
The new law also requires public notice of closures or other major school actions. Such actions must be posted by Dec. 1st during the school year. And, it requires early notice of hearings for closure proposals.