LA SHAWN K. FORD

ACCESS TO QUALITY EDUCATION

La Shawn K. Ford

Uplifting and improving the quality of life for all Chicagoans is my main concern. Social justice through social services has always been included in my ongoing agenda. As a former school teacher, and current State Representative, I realize how the two are interrelated. Serving people gives me an unmatched satisfaction. I am especially concerned about poverty because it impacts the lives of so many.

Elected School Board

In 2015, I sponsored legislation to remove the power of Chicago’s mayor to appoint the president of the Chicago Board of Education and championed the effort to establish a competent elected school board. I strongly believe in the power of collaborative relationships between parents, community organizations and public schools. My administration will be powered by caring competent Chicago residents (not corporate interest) charged with ensuring that every student in each district has access to educational programs that are on-par with selective enrollment schools. Children and neighborhood schools will flourish. Teachers and school leaders will be supported. Charter school operators will be held accountable.

young man reading book
10 POINT PLAN TO SUPPORT CHICAGO YOUTH
  1. Expand CPS wrap-around services for students and families, including counseling, school-based health, arts, sports, and other enrichment activities.
  2. Recruit, support, and retain high-quality, culturally competent teachers
  3. Convert closed Chicago Public Schools and other city-owned spaces into trade schools and community centers.
  4. Expose Chicago youth to new career opportunities and the trades
  5. Create a connected workforce by developing the technical skills of Chicago residents
  6. Establish a social investment fund to promote community entrepreneurship
  7. I propose to establish an Office of Violence Prevention to reduce systemic inequities, measure impact, and coordinate community efforts. Young leaders will have the opportunity to serve in this office to ensure they are at the table to develop and initiate ideas that will prevent violence.
  8. My administration will enhance police training protocols and renegotiate commitments between community members and police to restore healthy, respectful relationships. We all know that what exists now isn’t what we want it to be. We need to re-envision CPD’s relationship with the community.
  9. I want to make Chicago the most insured city in the nation
  10. Our young people are brilliant. Often times we don’t give them the opportunity to add their ideas to to policy in a meaningful way. As Mayor I will propose a Youth-Led Advisory Council for Leadership Development. I would like to see student/youth representation on various councils and boards. For instance, there should be a students/youth representative on the CPS Elected School Board. I think that this is timely, necessary, and their input will be invaluable.

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Attracting and Investing in High Quality, Culturally Diverse and Competent Teachers

The Illinois State Board of Education estimates more than 2,000 positions remained vacant during the 2016-17 school year. These vacancies included teaching, administrative and support staff. In order to ensure that all students in the city of Chicago have access to high quality education, the city must employ strategies to attract and retain highly qualified, culturally competent educators. In order to achieve this goal, I will develop a Chicago Teacher Fund to cover the cost of two years of college tuition for high-performing City of Chicago residents (students who maintain a 3.0 GPA) who pursue degrees in education at state schools. These students must be accepted into a college of education, at a state school, and must maintain a 3.0 GPA. In return for free tuition, students must commit to teaching in Chicago Public Schools for a minimum of five years.

Additionally, I plan to expand the CPS Teacher Homebuyer Assistance Program for highly qualified school teachers who are first-time homebuyers in Chicago. The incentive will increase from the stagnant $3,000 per teacher in closing cost and down-payment assistance to $7,000 per teacher and $15,000 for teachers who are returning to careers in the neighborhoods they grew-up. The expansion of this program better reflects the average cost of becoming a homeowner in Chicago and increases the likelihood of attracting high quality individuals who understand the culture of the communities they serve.

Expanding Support for Pregnant and New Moms

According to a study conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health, “Each year an average of 73 women in Illinois die within one year of pregnancy.” The study also found that Black women are six times more likely to die from pregnancy-related conditions than White women. These deaths are preventable in both demographics. We have to work to change this heartbreaking statistic. I am proud to share a new initiative titled Chicago Doula Services. This program will establish access to culturally relevant doula services for families in Chicago most at risk of maternal mortality and premature birth. In my administration, we will establish a two year pilot program, with the support of public and private universities, to create a community based doula network that collaborates with the Department of Family Support Services to train. The collaborating agencies will support, and sustain doulas from marginalized communities. Our goal will be to significantly reduce the mortality rates of both mother and their babies. Doulas provide non-medical assistance and support to women before, during and after childbirth. Home-visiting programs will be established to help high-risk mothers by monitoring the newly implemented practices of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ which suggests a “fourth trimester” of care hence expanding Medicaid eligibility from 60 days postpartum to one full year.

Home visiting programs are critical to increasing school readiness, curtailing child maltreatment, and reducing lifetime arrests and convictions. Equally as important, home visiting programs that are evidence based, also positively impacts familial structure and relationships: increases parental income and increases the likelihood of parents continuing to keep families together. As a state legislator, I have been involved with either sponsoring or voting in favor of all legislation that expands the outreach of the birth-to-three home visiting programs available in the State. As mayor, it will be my goal to ensure that residents of the City of Chicago are informed and empowered to engage in tapping those resources to the level they think is best for their family.

Access to Universal Preschool

Every child in the City of Chicago deserves access to a high quality preschool education as a foundation for long term academic success. Unfortunately for many, good high quality preschool is unaffordable. I will expand on the existing Universal Preschool Program by growing the initiative to include all families in Chicago. Building on existing public/private partnerships that already exist in the city, I will create an additional 25,000 preschool slots for existing and new community based organizations in our neighborhoods. Parents will have the option of deciding to enroll their children in a preschool of their choice, in their neighborhood or one in close proximity to their workplace. Investment in universal preschool will increase kindergarten readiness for our children, the gateway to academic success; assist our corporations in attracting and retaining talent in the city’s future workforce; improve the productivity of Chicago’s workforce, strengthen the backbone of our business industry. In addition to the aforementioned, studies have proven that a firm preschool foundation increases the chances of producing college bound students.

Expose Students to New Opportunities: Chicago Connects Career and Internship Fairs

Chicago is home to the most diversified economy in the U.S. and is a key player in every sector from risk management innovation to manufacturing to information technology to health services. Unfortunately, most children grow up unaware of the breadth of career and job opportunities available to them. I firmly believe it is important to connect Chicago Public School students to the unlimited possibilities available to them in its vibrant local economy. Chicago Connects Career and Internship Fairs will be hosted in every Chicago neighborhood, bringing Chicago professionals from many fields into elementary and high schools — on weekdays, nights, and weekends. Chicago Connects Career and Internship Fairs will be a well-publicized citywide effort to make career exposure a staple of growing up in Chicago. The programs will offer students vital help in learning how to enter whatever industry piques their interest, how to apply and interview for jobs, and how to behave professionally at work and how to launch a business. Every student in Chicago will have the opportunity to connect to limitless paths towards career and economic stability that fuel our local economy. Our goal is to grow and retain our own talent for generations to come.

Revive Recently Closed Chicago Public Schools as Community Centers

Recently closed public schools will be revived as community centers. I will coordinate with CPS to allow foundations, corporations, community-based organizations and residents to pitch ideas to convert these nearly 50 schools into spaces designed to fully meet the growing needs of Chicago residents. The schools will be retrofitted to offer after-school and weekend programs including tutoring, GED training, mentoring to parents, skills training to struggling job-seekers, mental health services, and reentry programs. Rather than dump closed schools onto the real estate market, they will be utilized to transform the lives of Chicagoans. Every revived school space will serve as the home of a Genius Hub and Chicago Justice Center. In the Genius Hubs, youths will learn real-world skills in social media, technology, and trades. These skills will be utilized to fuel the growth of Chicago businesses and introduce youth to the world of entrepreneurship. Chicago Justice Centers will offer non-profit legal services, legal education, and be fully staffed by professionals and restorative justice advocates who’ve dedicated their lives to criminal justice reform in Illinois.