Kudos to State Senator Iris Martinez and State Representative Cynthia Soto. Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn signed into law Senate Bill 620 which legally established the Illinois Facilities Task Force this past Saturday at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, 3015 W. Division St. 

A synopsis of SB620 from the Blocks Together website (btchicago.org) requires the Chicago Public Schools to:

Create a 10-year facility plan by 2013 with extensive community input and coordination with other local governments and your elected officials – including local school councils!

Publicly provide a detailed annual capital budget and 5-Year Capital Plan every year and produce an end-of-year Capital Expenditure Report.  This will enable the public and elected officials to “follow the money.”

School actions have to be announced by CPS every year by Dec. 1 – before the application deadline for selective enrollment schools.  

CPS must issue a written announcement explaining its reasons for wanting to take a school action. 

Hearings will be run by independent hearing officers, and can’t be held until 30 days after the CPS announcement of proposed school actions.

CPS must have a transition plan to support and aid students and schools impacted if or when school actions are approved by the Chicago Board of Education

This includes planning with educators and families to meet the “educational, social, and emotional needs” of impacted students, with access to higher-performing schools, transportation provided as needed, and a commitment of resources for a full school year to a “Receiving School.”  In particular, ELL, special needs and homeless students’ transition needs must be addressed.

SB620 is follow-up legislation to HB363 which initially established the Illinois Facilities Task Force in response to CPS’s incoherent school actions, such as school closings and turnarounds as part of Renaissance 2010. The school actions primarily impacted African-American students and teachers.

The members of the Illinois Facilities Task Force, led by state Rep. Cynthia Soto, held hearings all over the city soliciting input from parents and community stakeholders concerning CPS’s incoherent school actions policies.

In the future, the West Side community has to expect that our elected officials represent our community like state Sen. Martinez and state Rep. Soto represented theirs through this meaningful legislation.

Much love to Valencia Rias, Jackie Leavy, Cecile Carroll, Xian Barrett, and Clarice Berry for their hard work. I apologize if I missed anyone.

Dwayne Truss