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Student success must include health and safety

At the Legal Council, we believe that any revision of school quality policies must consider student health, safety, and well-being. Read more about our position in the following letter we submitted this week to the Chicago Tribune: 

Charter quality must encompass student health and safety, in addition to academic accountability. While Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) newly proposed charter policy details debatable quality performance standards (“CPS gets tougher on charter schools” 10/27/15), it is completely devoid of indicators that ensure that charter school students are educated in a school environment that promotes student health and wellness. Effective and well-coordinated school health, wellness, and safety policies play a crucial role in children’s well-being and academic success.  According to a report, “School Health and Safety For All,” issued earlier this year by Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, only 10 percent of statewide health and safety laws required at district-run public schools were also applicable to charter schools. This exclusion was remedied this summer when Gov. Rauner signed HB 1360 (now Public Act 099-0325), which requires charter schools to comply with all student health and safety laws applicable to publicly-funded schools across the state, and instructs ISBE to publicize and post the applicable laws on its website. The new law additionally grants CPS and other districts that have district-wide health and safety policies that go above and beyond the bar set by state law a green light to compel charter schools to comply with those policies.

If CPS is truly committed to ensuring student success, any “quality” policy must also include health and safety performance standards. 

–Amy Zimmerman
director, Chicago Medical-Legal Partnership for Children