This Week in CPS: Building Boom!

On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Chicago Public Schools will be spending $989 million on school construction as part of its FY 2019 budget. Though much was made of the nearly $1 billion spend as the largest in 20 years, Emanuel’s predecessor, Mayor Richard M. Daley, announced a billion-dollar school construction program in the runup to the 2006 election, his last victory.

According to Chalkbeat Chicago, about one-third of the funds, or $336 million, are earmarked for repairs such as roof replacement. A recent WBEZ story noted that since 2011, about 60 percent of the $3.4 billion Emanuel has spent on school capital improvements went to new construction. Meanwhile, the city’s public schools still need about $3 billion in repairs.

Big-ticket items lumped within the $335 million for “programmatic investments” include a brand-new, open-enrollment high school on Chicago’s near west side, a new elementary school in the Belmont-Craigin neighborhood on the Northwest Side and a new building to replace the current Hancock High on the Southwest Side. The budget also includes previously announced plans to open two new classical schools, one in Bronzeville and another in the Southwest Side neighborhood of West Elsdon. The capital plan also includes funds to expand three existing classical schools–Decatur, McDade and Poe–from K-6 to K-8.

The plan also includes previously announced efforts to modernize science labs and expand facilities for pre-K as part of the city’s push for universal preschool.

Two public hearings on the plan will be held Thursday, July 19: one at Truman College and the other at Malcolm X College. At both sites, registration for speakers opens at 5 p.m. and the hearings run from 6 to 8 p.m.

Special Ed Monitor Goes to Work

Last week was Laura Boedeker’s first week on the job as the state monitor working with CPS to improve delivery of special education services. Most recently, she worked for a private law firm that represents school districts in matters of special education. Previously she served as in-house counsel to CPS on special education, which raised concerns about her independence among advocates for students with disabilities, as WTTW recently reported.

In the WTTW story, ISBE General Counsel Stephanie Jones expressed confidence in Boedeker. ““We have an opportunity with Laura to have someone who understands the system and its weaknesses and can jump in from the state board perspective and attack those weaknesses,” said Jones. “I

In her new role, Boedeker will approve any changes to current special education policies and procedures, review the budget for special education services, and help the district develop a plan to find and support students who were harmed by previous changes to special education policy that limited services to students in need.

School’s Out and The Youth Are Keeping the Peace

While national media, including Time, kept an eye on the protest blocking the Dan Ryan Expressway last Saturday, today WBEZ’s Morning Shift spoke with Berto Aguayo, a community leader with The Resurrection Project, who works with young leaders to hold overnight campouts on “hot blocks” to build community and reduce violence. Listen here.

Back in 2015, Aguayo shared his education story with our sister blog, Education Post. There, he talked about the principal who helped turn his life around and the importance of growing more Latinx educators.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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