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Editorial: After a year of chaos, a plan for the schools

Chicago Public Schools CEO BarbarByrd-Bennett

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett

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Updated: July 13, 2013 6:30AM

It’s good to have a plan.

In fact it’s essential for the Chicago Public Schools to have a long-term vision, especially after the year we’ve had (you might recall the teachers strike and the vote on closing of 50 schools).

But here’s what matters most: whether CPS can stick to its plan and find ways to pay for its most important elements.

After releasing the five-year blueprint on Monday, Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pledged to do just that: “What’s new [in this plan] is we’re actually going to do it.”

We have her back on this — and she’ll need it because it’s clear where her plan could easily derail.

Much of the plan already has been announced, and it was short on details, but it does successfully tie many initiatives together in a way that lays out CPS’ top priorities, something that’s been lacking as CPS has bounced from one crisis to another. CPS says the plan was drafted with feedback from multiple quarters.

It includes a tougher common core and well-rounded curriculum for all schools, a major push for more parent involvement, an intensive focus on students’ social and emotional skills, a push to boost attendance, more arts education, greater accountability for all types of schools and a district scorecard to keep track of the plans’ goals.

We are particularly heartened to see the strong emphasis on social and emotional learning. Getting a school climate right — making it a place where students know how to resolve conflicts, where they get the support they need — is essential for strong academics, especially in struggling schools.

But where’s the money to do this well? Ditto for arts education and better attendance (it takes people and time to hunt down truant kids). Byrd-Bennett says they’ll redirect resources and tap outside funds. That’s a start but not a recipe for lasting change.

And then there’s the teachers union, which summarily dismissed the plan before the ink was even dry.

Is there anything that comes from CPS that the union would publicly support?

If the past is any guide, we wouldn’t suggest holding your breath.

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