Click here for info on all of the 2012 MacArthur Award Recipients
Click here for news about BPI's MacArthur Award
Watch a brief video about BPI and our work
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2011
NEW BPI REPORT SHOWS PROMISING RESULTS
FOR SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT
Study Reveals How Some Chicago Public Schools Are Successfully
Building Internal Capacity to Improve: Common Instructional Focus
for All Students at All Grade Levels is Key.
In its new report, Every Child, Every School: Lessons from Chicago’s Partnership for Instructional Leadership, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) documents encouraging results from its three-year school improvement initiative among a group of Chicago elementary schools.
In the midst of a national debate over student achievement and school improvement, Every Child, Every School offers an encouraging story. It centers around the Partnership for Instructional Leadership—a three-year initiative catalyzed by BPI, principals, teachers, parents, Chicago Public Schools Area 4, and an educational consultant.
BPI Executive Director Hoy McConnell said, “The Partnership approach is different from most others in that it aims to build a school’s internal capacity to improve achievement for all students at all grade levels, including areas like Pre-K and English Language Learners. It demonstrates that when the entire faculty and staff of a school are united by a shared goal with a coherent instructional focus—and are engaged with parents and the larger community—student learning increases and can be sustained.”
How schools are building success from within:
Each of the 11 Partnership schools adopted a common “Framework”—a multifaceted, multi-year approach to school improvement, unified by a single instructional focus—and acted as its own engine of change. Originally developed by Targeted Leadership Consulting, this approach has led to impressive results in a number of places across the country, including an entire school district in California.
As the report reveals, the key to the Partnership’s success is creating cultural change. Improvement is made possible by developing a collaborative culture of shared leadership within each school—while building the internal capacity to improve. The key resource to accomplishing this is existing faculty and staff, assisted by structured professional development and coaching.
Key steps in the Partnership for Instructional Leadership approach include the following:
- Each school selects a single area of instructional focus for all grade levels—with leadership, discussion, accountability expectations, and data gathering all in support of the focus.
- Schools receive special coaching to help them become learning organizations, equipping faculty and staff to ask difficult questions, while providing mutual support and holding each other collectively accountable for improved student learning.
- As a result, each school is able to build its own internal capacity for professional learning, collaboration, and shared, accountable leadership—with students, parents, and the community all playing important roles.
What we learned:
While very much a work in progress, the Partnership for Instructional Leadership has important lessons to share after its first three years—lessons with the potential to inform and help other schools, groups of schools, districts, educators, policymakers, and advocates.
Every Child, Every School provides a comprehensive overview of such key points as:
- The Partnership Framework provides a system schools can employ to respond to the need to increase student learning in every classroom.
- Selecting a single area of instructional focus for all grades and for multiple years of work helps develop learning and accelerate school-wide change.
- Integration of Pre-K, while challenging, is valuable and achievable—especially with district support.
- Empowering teachers to drive the process in concert with school leadership generates school-wide support and impact while facilitating sustainability.
- School instructional learning initiatives are more effective when done in collaboration with a school district.
BPI is grateful for the generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which funded publication of this report.
Click here for full report.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2011
FIGHTING POLITICAL CORRUPTION —
MAKE INSPECTOR GENERAL OFFICES STRONG,
BPI REPORT FINDS
A New BPI Study Looks at Five Illinois Inspector General Offices and
Shows How to Improve Their Effectiveness
in Fighting Political Corruption
Chicago-based public interest law and policy center Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) released a new report today that highlights the importance of inspector general offices in the fight to combat the corrosive effects of political corruption.
Inspectors General and Government Corruption: A Guide to Best Practices and an Assessment of Five Illinois Offices looks into the role of inspectors general (IGs) and how well five Illinois IG offices are working. Based on its analysis of best practices nationally BPI recommends ways to design IG offices to maximize their effectiveness.
The report’s principal author is Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Polikoff, who will present BPI’s findings before the Association of Inspectors General Spring Conference on May 18 at the Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza.
BPI Executive Director Hoy McConnell said, “IG offices play an essential role in good government—and here in Illinois they’re critical to efforts to root out waste, fraud and outright corruption in government at every level. For democracy to work, people have to have trust in their elected officials—and strong IG offices, as internal government watchdogs with the power to investigate and prosecute public corruption, are essential to good government. We hope BPI’s report will be a useful resource for policymakers, advocates and the general public in demonstrating how well-designed IG offices can help combat the virus of public corruption.”
The five Illinois OIGs examined in the report include two each for the State and City of Chicago and one for Cook County with an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses and recommendations on how these offices can be strengthened.
BPI’s report was funded by The Joyce Foundation of Chicago.
Click here for full report.
Illinois Ranks Near Bottom in
Fair Distribution of Education Funds
New National Study Finds
National report card on school funding fairness finds Illinois one of four states ranking poorly on all measures
A national report card on education funding released on October 12th gives Illinois an “F” in an evaluation of the fairness of its funding distribution between low- and high-poverty school districts. The report ranks Illinois third from last on this measure with updated data showing that the state has now slipped even lower to second from last in funding distribution fairness. Illinois also scored low marks on the study’s other measures.
“Is School Funding Fair? A National Report Card,” a national study conducted by Rutgers University researchers and the Education Law Center in Newark, N.J., ranks states on how fairly they fund public schools based on four interrelated “fairness indicators”—funding level, funding distribution, state fiscal effort and public school coverage.
Click here to view BPI's press release.
Click here to view the report.
CHANGE Illinois! Questionnaire
CHANGE Illinois! asks all candidates for Governor and the General Assembly to answer 20 questions indicating their positions on Illinois government reform issues.
Click here for the details.
BPI Testifies Before the Illinois Senate State Government and
Veterans Affairs Committee on an
Independent Inspector General for Metra
On Wednesday, July 28, BPI staff testified before the Illinois Senate Committee on State Government and Veterans Affairs regarding the need to establish an independent inspector general for Metra. Staff participated in a panel with David Hoffman, former Inspector General of the City of Chicago, Andy Shaw of the Better Government Association (BGA), and David Morrison of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). The Committee hearing, "Increasing Accountability and Transparency at Metra" was called in response to the recent relevations of financial fraud and misconduct by Metra's former executive director. BPI's testimony was based on extensive research conducted for a forthcoming BPI report on inspectors general and the important role these offices play in uncovering and preventing public corruption.
You can read BPI's testimony here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: CONTACT:
March 24, 2010 Hoy McConnell Executive Director
TAXPAYERS SUE STATE OVER
SCHOOL FUNDING SYSTEM
Lawsuit Raises Constitutional Claim, Says State Violates Equal Protection Clause by Requiring Homes of Same Value to be Taxed at Different Rates
SPRINGFIELD, IL– The long quest to reform Illinois’ controversial system for funding public schools took an unprecedented turn Thursday when the funding system was challenged in court by two taxpayers who say it discriminates against them based on the communities where they live.
In a lawsuit filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield, homeowners from south suburban Chicago Heights and downstate Cairo charge that the state’s school funding policy violates the equal protection clause of the Illinois Constitution by effectively forcing residents in economically struggling communities to pay higher property tax rates for local schools than owners of similarly valued homes in more affluent municipalities.
“Illinois’ method of funding education is an unfair system of taxation by location,” said Hoy McConnell, Executive Director of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), a Chicago-based non-profit organization whose lawyers, along with the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin LLP, represent the plaintiffs in the suit.
“Under state school funding policy,” McConnell explained, “some property owners are forced to pay higher school property tax rates than others if they want to reach the state-designated ‘Foundation Level’ — even though the value of their homes is identical. The only difference is where those homes happen to be located on the map. That seems to us to be a stark violation of one of the most sacred tenets of our state constitution: The guarantee of equal protection under the law.”
This funding disparity is exemplified by the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Plaintiff Paul Carr is a resident of Chicago Heights, where his high school property tax rate is nearly two and a half times higher than the school tax rate on a property of equal value in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Winnetka. In poverty-stricken downstate Cairo, Ron Newell’s school tax rate is more than double the amount assessed on a property of equal value in the Scales Mound school district near Rockford.
Today over three-fifths of total public school funding in Illinois is financed by local property taxes. The State finances less than thirty percent, one of the lowest levels in the nation.
The BPI/Sidley taxpayer lawsuit is distinct from a pending action filed in 2008 by the Chicago Urban League, which also challenges the state’s school funding system. That suit claims that the system is racially discriminatory against African-American and Latino students, not that it treats taxpayers unequally.
The taxpayer suit is part of a long lineage of efforts to reform the state’s school funding system through the courts. While previous attempts at seeking a court-ordered change to the state’s educational funding system have been rebuffed, attorneys for the taxpayer plaintiffs note that circumstances have changed dramatically since those rulings. In 1996, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that school funding disparities were related to the legitimate state goal of promoting local control of education. But since then, the Illinois legislature has effectively centralized control of education by mandating a comprehensive set of learning standards for all of the State’s schoolchildren and imposing penalties upon schools and school districts for failure to meet the standards.
“It is no longer the case that our schools operate primarily within the discretion of local school districts,” said McConnell. “The State has now dictated the standards for educational performance at the local level, and schools are compelled to comply with those standards. In other words, the ‘local control’ rationale for inequality in school taxation has been turned on its ear since the last time the Illinois Supreme Court looked at this matter. Also, the Court has never considered the inequality of taxpayer treatment that is at the heart of this lawsuit. These two reasons explain why we think it is appropriate to reraise the school funding question at this time.”
Lead counsel for Sidley Austin in the case is Scott Lassar, joined by BPI senior staff counsel Alexander Polikoff.
View news coverage here:
Chicago Tribune 3.24.10
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial 3.24.10
WTTW - Chicago Tonight Video 3.24.10
Daily Herald 3.24.10
BPI Fights for Government Ethics Reform with
CHANGE Illinois! is a coalition of civic, business, labor, professional, non-profit and philanthropic organizations advocating for comprehensive political reform. Created a year ago, the coalition identified contribution limits, combined with more frequent public reporting of contributions and strengthened oversight of campaign finance laws, as its first priority in its effort to reduce the influence of large contributors. The coalition's work led to passage of the state's first contribution limits system, which will take effect next Jan. 1.
BPI staff and directors are playing an active role in CHANGE Illinois! BPI Vice President Deborah Harrington serves as Co-Chair of the Coalition; Executive Director Hoy McConnell and Directors Dawn Clark Netsch and Tony Valukas are members of the Steering Committee; and Director Frank Beal is an active member.
CHANGE Illinois! continues to build a statewide grassroots network to advocate additional reforms, including expansion of the limits law to include party and legislative leader contributions in general election cycles. For more information, go to www.changeil.org.
Click here to read Hoy McConnell's testimony before the Illinois State Senate Redistricting Committee.
BPI Releases New Public Housing Report
The Third Side:
A Mid-Course Report on Chicago's
Transformation of Public Housing
Click here for announcement
Click here for full report
Click here for CHA's response to BPI's report