School budget protests, advice for new equity office, and cursive’s comeback

We’re Cassie Burke, Adeshina Emmanuel, and intern Elaine Chen. We round up Chicago public education news here every week. Please send any tips, story ideas, or general shoutouts our way: Discovering our newsletter for the first time? Sign up for free here. And share it with a friend if you feel so inclined.

The Big Story

PHOTO: Bettmann/Getty Images
A third grade class recites the “Pledge of Allegiance” at Franklin Elementary School, which is now Franklin Fine Arts Academy, in September 1963

This week the Chicago Board of Education passed a $7.58 billion budget, despite calls from parents, students, activists and community organizations for the board to pump its brakes. Chalkbeat Chicago was there, tweeting live. Critics of the $1 billion capital portion of the plan argued it skews toward school building investments in white and North Side neighborhoods, and accelerates gentrification in other communities, especially west and south of downtown. But officials, including CPS CEO Janice Jackson, maintained that the budget was a step in the right direction. “We believe these capital investments promote equity throughout the district,” Jackson said.

Included in the budget is a $1 million Office of Equity led by a chief equity officer, who Jackson looks to hire this summer. The equity chief will be tasked with identifying racial inequity at CPS and leading efforts to eliminate it. That won’t be an easy job. So we reached out to experts around the country already doing work like this to gather advice for the future chief equity officer in year one. One person we spoke with was John Marshall, chief equity officer at Jefferson County Schools, in Kentucky. One piece of advice he gave Chicago about dismantling racism in public schools was to hire someone with a strong grasp of history. “What [equity officers] have to do is look at the system as not broken,” Marshall said, “but as doing what it’s created to do.”

Chalkbeat Chicago is regularly live- tweeting events and meetings on Twitter. Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen.

The Week in Review

Cursive comeback: Starting this school year, CPS students will have to learn how to write cursive before the end of fifth grade. That’s one more task added to teachers’ workload, courtesy of state lawmakers. But proponents of the bill said learning cursive is critical for students to “write a check, sign legal documents or even read out Constitution.” Chalkbeat Chicago dug into the issue this week.

Parents won’t abandon House: At the Wednesday school board meeting, parents from Simeon High School spoke out in support of Principal Sheldon House, who was removed last month pending an ongoing investigation into sexual abuse at Simeon. Parents said he helped transform Simeon since arriving in 2010, and compared losing him to a “Category 5 hurricane.” Chicago Tonight has more.

Holding onto black teachers: The challenge isn’t just getting people from underrepresented groups into the teacher pipeline and putting them in the classroom — it’s also keeping them there. Chalkbeat National explores why black teachers tend to leave schools at higher rates, with particular focus on a study of black teachers in North Carolina. Take a look, here.

Student wins free-speech fight: A student at the Hillsboro School District, which is about one-third Latino, was sent home after refusing to change or cover up his pro-Trump, pro-border wall T-shirt. School officials in the Oregon town defended the decision, citing recent immigration-related issues at the school, like “deportations of students’ family members and racially motivated incidents.” The suspension spurred a debate around free speech and a lawsuit against the district, which settled the case for $25,000. Hear how it all went down at Portland Public Broadcasting.

Looking Ahead

Back-to-school bashes: Next week, CPS kicks off a series of 13 community events to celebrate the new school year. The events will provide, food, entertainment, immunizations, and free school supplies. For more information, go here.

New CPS departments: This summer, CPS is in the process of building two new offices and hiring officials to run them. One is the $1 million, four-person Office of Equity, which we wrote about here. The second new department is the $3 million, 20-person Office of Student Protections and Title IX. 


PHOTO: Elaine Chen
Jose Hernandez, a CPS Dream Fund Scholarship recipient.

This week’s #HighFive goes out to Jose Hernandez, a 21-year-old recipient of the CPS Dream Fund scholarship and a recent graduate of the University of Illinois Chicago. The scholarship awards up to $2,500 to undocumented students, who aren’t eligible for federal or state financial aid, to help pay for college.

When he was six years old, Jose left Mexico and came to Chicago’s Southwest Side with his mom and two siblings to join his father. He attended Hubbard High School in West Lawn, and then transferred to DeVry University Advantage Academy in Avondale in junior year, earning an associate degree in web graphic design. Then, at UIC, he majored in finance and minored in management, with the help of the Dream Fund scholarship and also income from working two part-time jobs. He now aims to pursue a career in music.

Jose said that in senior year of college, he realized “I love music so maybe I should rap my own story.” A year later, he’s now sharing his story here.

Follow us @ChalkbeatCHI, @cassiechicago, @public_ade, and @elaineywchen.