Education Committee Stakes New Ground

The Education Committee
The Education Committee (from back left): Ana Lopez, Jayme Robinson, Amaro Julian, Nelly Prosper, Serena Williams, Crystal “Cassie” Sahler, Andy Greenia, Pat Rivera, Marilyn Escoe, Dasia Skinner, Kaleyah Escoe, Tiffany Lewis, Mary Baker, Jeanne Walker, and J.D. Klippenstein

The Education Committee met last week to determine the next steps in their advocacy work. The committee’s mission is to “empower parents of homeless students and to understand what they need for their children to receive a quality education.”

CPS identified a record 17,255 homeless students in 2011-2012, a 10.7% increase from the prior year’s record. The homeless enrollment included 3,005 unaccompanied youth. Fenger High School stands as a sobering example, close to a third of the students in the Roseland neighborhood school were reported as homeless. 

The committee has conducted listening sessions and outreach at select CPS schools and two big issues have emerged: access to transit cards and uniforms for homeless students.  Both services should be provided by law. While the law is there, the follow through is often lacking.

Andy Greenia, a Loyola college student, gave a presentation detailing CPS policy and procedure in distributing CTA passes and school uniforms to homeless students.

Tiffany Lewis leads a brainstorm session
Tiffany Lewis leads a brainstorm session

With this knowledge in mind the Education Committee then brainstormed and discussed the next steps the Coalition could take to ensure CPS spending remains accountable to its homeless students. The group voted and agreed to “dig deeper” at 15 schools where it has contacts to date.

Outreach will now become more focused on connecting with students, parents, and school groups at these locations to communicate and understand their particular circumstances and see where the best opportunities are to activate concerned individuals to affect positive change.

Committee member, mother, and current resident at New Life on the North Side, Marilyn Escoe has first-hand experience with the tangles in accessing these services for her daughter Kaleyah. “Mom, don’t tell him!” Kaleyah sheepishly admonished as her mother explained that they only had one school uniform shirt.  “It can be frustrating, but I’m happy for the opportunity to help someone else with the same situation and to be able to learn more myself.”

With a clear path of action, the group wrapped on an energetic and positive note with another Education Committee meeting scheduled for March.

–Jim Lacy, Media Volunteer