Governor Quinn Signs Bill to Increase Transparency in Chicago Public School Facility Planning

CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–August 22, 2011. As part of his agenda to ensure every child receives a quality education, Governor Pat Quinn Saturday signed reform legislation to improve school facility planning and increase transparency and accountability in Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Senate Bill 630 requires CPS to create a 10-year master facility plan to chart its future school repair and construction investments with the involvement of educators, parents and community members, and lay out decisions on school actions. This new law will help ensure that CPS provides fair and efficient use of available facilities-related resources to different schools’ transitions, closures, consolidations and new buildings.

“All of our children deserve a 21st century education in a good school,” Governor Quinn said. “I believe the local community should always have a voice in the local decisions that impact them. This law empowers our communities to ensure fair treatment of students in every neighborhood.”

Led by Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) and Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), this new law was championed by the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force after some communities protested numerous school closings in districts across Chicago. SB 630 empowers communities by requiring CPS to inform the public about proposed changes or school actions by Dec. 1 each year and provide advance notice of public hearings to be conducted by independent Hearing Officers, so that schools, parents and communities will be more involved in any school change decision process. Under the law, when significant school changes occur, parents and students will have more choices to attend higher-performing schools and receive support services.

“This law makes Illinois a model for comprehensive school planning and brings unprecedented transparency and accountability to CPS,” Rep. Soto said. “We must ensure equitable and effective educational facility development and that’s what this does. With new reforms that include the Master Plan, transparency of CPS’ budgets and spending, and more community participation in setting priorities for our schools, we will all work together to give our students and neighborhoods great schools.”

Under the new law, schools impacted by closings, consolidations, boundary changes, or co-sharing of a building will also get additional resources for a full academic year. In addition, CPS will be required to publicly disclose detailed annual facility spending budgets, 5-Year capital plans, and annual capital spending reports. Further increasing accountability and transparency, CPS will be required to develop and publish new standards for facility use based on school program needs. The bill also requires the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force to issue yearly status reports on the new law and gather community feedback on its implementation.

“Decisions that impact school facilities impact the entire community, so it is important for our school system to include the input of the school community as much as possible,” Sen. Martinez said. “This new law ensures that educators, families, elected officials, agencies and city government have their voices heard in these critical decisions that impact our children’s education.”

SB 630 goes into effect immediately and was chiefly sponsored by House Speaker Michael Madigan and Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).