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An Open Letter to Mayor Emanuel and Walgreen's CEO on Real Parent Involvement

Dear Mayor Emanuel and Walgreen's CEO Greg Wasson:

PURE is a Chicago Public School (CPS) parent advocacy organization which has offered exceptional local school council and parent training and support for 25 years.

We object to the idea of offering parents Walgreen's cards loaded with 25,000 ”customer loyalty” points (worth $25) for attending report card pick up.

Mayor, you say that this would “incentivize responsible parenting.” Let me ask you - do you need such an “incentive” to participate in and support your own children's education? Surely not. Then what makes you think CPS parents need it?

Setting your press conference at Field Elementary school brought back some powerful memories, going back 25 years when my two sons attended the school.

I remember being elected to the first local school council (LSC) at Field. At the first meeting, we elected the top vote-getter, an immigrant from El Salvador, as our chairperson. His daughter’s teacher stood up in that meeting and threatened him in front of the principal and the entire audience. Shortly after that, his daughter decided to transfer to another school, so the father lost his eligibility to be an LSC member. All of this was done with full knowledge of the district. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

I remember when the Field teachers, with the blessing of the principal, came out in force to a PTA meeting and voted themselves in to all the PTA officers’ positions, effectively shutting parents out of any role in the parent-teacher organization. That was how CPS “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

The LSC replaced that principal and hired a new one. She seemed great for a while, but then lots of bad advice from upper management led her to hide in her office and, among other things, deny the offer my husband and I made to run a Great Books program in the school. She actually wrote us a letter saying that the school had “enough volunteers.” That was how they “incentivized” parent involvement at Field.

Eventually the LSC found a better principal fit, and I hope things are better for parents under the current principal.

But my perspective at PURE allows me to see how CPS continues to “incentivize” parent involvement around the city:

  • CPS allows principals to break federal parent involvement rules by barring PURE's popular, effective parent workshops from the schools, even though NCLB parent advisory committees have voted to bring in the workshops.

  • CPS encourages principals to waste hundreds of thousands of parent involvement dollars every year sending school staff and a few parents to out-of-state conferences (airfare, hotel, meals and stipends included in the cost) while parents at home gain nothing.

  • CPS’s Office of LSC Relations continues to blacklist PURE from LSC training even though LSC members prefer independent training over CPS’s ineffective bullet-point sessions.

In addition, Chicago's foundation and corporate giving world continues to blacklist independent LSC/parent support groups like PURE, instead providing millions of dollars to astroturf groups such as Stand for Children which push union-busting and charter schools.

Mayor Emanuel, you and your CPS team continue to ignore and disrespect elected, parent-run LSCs while pushing phony “parent empowerment” programs like school choice and the parent trigger.

Mr. Wasson, you may be aware of PURE’s 1993 Walgreen's boycott in response to the company's opposition to a fair school funding ballot initiative. We urge you to change course and start supporting improved education by paying your fair share of school costs, so that Illinois moves from the bottom of the heap in per-capita school funding to a position more appropriate to the wealth of our state and the needs of our children. You might then consider supporting real parent involvement through parent-selected programs like PURE's rather than a strategy that simply promotes your corporate brand. I have attached a brochure outlining our parent workshop offerings, for your information.

Thank you for your attention.

Yours truly,

Julie Woestehoff

Executive Director

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