Parents and education activists will head to court later this month to present the latest arguments in a long-running legal battle over appointment of local school council members at several Chicago campuses.
The group says Chicago Public Schools broke state law by switching from elected local school councils to appointed ones at Orr High School campus, Carver Military Academy and some other city schools.
The group seeking legal action includes Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), the West Side NAACP, and several community members and parents. They are asking a judge to overturn CPS' decision to replace elected councils.
Circuit Court judge Sophia Hall dismissed the group’s original complaint April 11, but allowed the group to re-file the case. Elaine K.B. Siebel and Associates, a Chicago law firm working on a pro-bono basis, did so earlier this year.
Arguments on the new case will be heard at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 19 in Cook County Circuit Court at the Daley Center.
“I’m hoping for the best,“ says Rev. Charlie Walker Jr., one of the plaintiffs. He was LSC co-chair for the former Mose Vines Preparatory School and is now an appointed council member at Orr High School.
CPS attorneys have asked for the case to be dismissed. Michael Vaughn, CPS spokesman, declined to comment on next week's hearing.
At issue is the level of power of an LSC. State law says elected councils can hire and fire a principal and make decisions regarding a school’s curriculum and finances. An appointed LSC has advisory power only.
State code calls for most LSC positions to be filled through a public election every two years. However, small or alternative schools can have appointed councils.
The LSC group claims that city schools with elected LSCs have been transformed into small or alternative schools, losing their elected councils in the process.
Julie Woestehoff, PURE executive director, says the city school district has “deceived and misled schools and school communities” about whether there would be an LSC after restructuring. PURE claims CPS has repeatedly changed policies to make it more difficult for elected LSCs to exist.
The motion specifically mentions Carver High School, which closed June 30, 2006 with an elected LSC and opened one day later as an alternative school, Carver Military Academy.
Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.