Visualization of School Closings
CPS Approves Largest School Closure in Chicago’s History – May 23, 2013
The Board of Education, hand selected by Rahm Emanuel, voted to shut down 49 elementary schools in Chicago. The board fully endorsed Emanuel’s plan for a downsized school system that they believe will help combat the budget deficit.
Underenrollment is cited as the main reason for the school closings. This problem has been “linked in large measure to an exodus from the city in recent years of middle-class African-American families.” Emanuel contends that depleting enrollment has caused 100,000 empty desks in Chicago schools. The list of closing schools has been pared down from the original 330 schools identified as underenrolled last fall.
One of many complaints regarding the school closures is in response to the district’s promise that all students will be sent to academically superior schools. The promise appears to be unfounded in about three dozen cases.
Critics are still hopeful that the courts will intervene and stop some of the school closures. Additionally, the Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has threatened to use public upset over the closings to block Emanuel’s re-election. Emanuel contends that he is prepared to take a political hit for the school closures.
Teachers union files suit to halt closings: Latest action argues CPS broke proper procedure – May 30, 2013
The Chicago Teachers Union filed a lawsuit seeking to keep 10 schools from closing, alleging that Chicago Public Schools did not follow proper procedure.
Two suits have already been filed, with CTU’s backing, to obtain a court injunction to stop all closings. One contends that CPS failed to delineate an appropriate plan for special needs children during the closings, thus violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The other argues that African-American and special-needs students are disproportionately affected by the closings.
The newest lawsuit suggests that CPS broke state law by ignoring the recommendations of a group of independent hearing officers, made up of retired judges, that were required by state law to issue recommendations on all school closings. The officers opposed the closures, contending that CPS was not following state laws or district guidelines for shutting down schools.
“The law bars them from closing a school where the hearing officer goes through the process to issue a ruling and determines the school closing plan does not comply with the district’s own guidelines,” CTU attorney Robert Bloch said. “The board is not permitted to close that school then in that school year.”
Hearings began on July 16 for the first two lawsuits two lawsuits seeking to block the closure of 49 elementary schools and a high school program. The first lawsuit requests at least a year delay in the closures and the second requests a permanent injunction.
If the case proceeds, the trial could be months away. The third lawsuit, filed by the Chicago Teachers Union in Cook County Circuit Court, is expected to have a preliminary injunction hearing on July 31.
Closing Schools will not Eliminate Overcrowding Problem – June 12, 2013
Fifty public schools will close over the summer because the schools have too few kids enrolled in their schools. But this ignores the problem of extreme overcrowding in other Chicago Public Schools throughout the district.
There are 50 schools in the district that are considered severely overcrowded. Peck Elementary School is currently operating at 206 percent overcapacity. Despite proposed plans to build more buildings to accommodate students and staff, 18 temporary classrooms have been placed on the playground.
Overcrowding is most common in the predominantly Latino Southwest Side.
“It seems intuitive, but it’s a bit like saying on any given night there are fifty restaurants where people are lined up outside the door and there are fifty other restaurants where the tables are empty,” said Charlie Wheelan, author of Naked Economics and a professor of economics and public policy at Dartmouth University. “No one would ever suggest, well let’s just take the overcrowded restaurants and send them somewhere else. People don’t want to go there. It’s really about changing the food that’s being served. It’s not just about moving customers around.”
CPS is working on alleviating the overcrowding of 22 schools for the upcoming year. This task has been made additionally difficult by the mandate of full-day kindergarten in all schools.
Details on Staff Cuts Caused by School Closures – June 14, 2013
Chicago Public Schools announced that 663 school employees from the closing schools do not qualify to follow students to new schools and will be laid off.
The cuts include 420 teachers, more than a third of them tenured but marked either unsatisfactory or satisfactory. Only teachers with excellent or superior ratings are protected under the teachers union contract.
More cuts are likely to follow as the plan to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program is implemented. The district has yet to determine how many principals, clerks and other employees will be cut.
The district’s budget deficit for the coming year is almost $1 billion.
The first round of 28 schools close - June 19, 2013
Chicago Invests in Private Enterprise as Public Schools Face Deep Cuts – June 23, 2013
In May, Rahm Emanuel and DePaul University announced their proposal for a $173 million arena in downtown Chicago. The city would contribute $33 million of the price tag. This announcement came just six days before the Board of Education voted to close 50 Chicago Public Schools to alleviate a $1 billion budget deficit.
Bob Fioretti, the alderman of the ward where the arena would be built, spoke out against the proposal. Fioretti condemned the plan for prioritizing funding for a private university’s sports team over public schools.
The plan was also criticized by Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, for the city’s continued investment in downtown business while less wealthy areas continue to be neglected. Lewis noted that most of the school closings were located on the South and West Sides.
CPS currently anticipates more school budget cuts in the coming year as the city pursues its $1.1 billion investment plan to boost tourism.
Twenty more schools close - June 24, 2013
New Method of Funding Drastically Affects School Programs – June 14, 2013
Budget cuts and layoffs will cause an increase in class size and reduction in specialty programs in Chicago Public Schools. CPS will change how it distributes money to schools to a system that allocates money based on a specific amount for each child enrolled in the school. Some schools will see an increase in funding, while others will experience deep cuts.
“Teachers at Von Steuben High School said they weren’t sure exactly how much their budget decreased, but had been told they may no longer have a librarian, a writing center or an administrator to deal with discipline issues.”
Charter grammar schools are seeing even or increasing funding and charter high school budgets are declining. Most critics do not object to the method of per-pupil funding. Instead, they protest the small amount that is to be allotted for each student.
Social Events Ease School Mergers – June 21, 2013
In an effort to ease tensions resulting from school mergers, remaining schools will host students from closing schools. This “cultural integration” will include events for students and parents of the combining schools.
Schools such as the merging Stewart and Brennemann are holding “turn and talks” to get students interacting before merging in the fall. Pizza parties, ice cream socials, and bar-b-ques are common methods for increasing familiarity this summer.
These effort will be much smoother for schools like Stewart and Brennemann, where students come from the same general area on the North Side. It will be much harder for schools that come from diverse backgrounds due to “animosity between neighborhoods, gang affiliations, [and] a host of issues not easily overcome.”
Chicago Public Schools Closing Point Up the Dangers of Geography – July 1, 2013
School mergers pose a safety dilemma for students that will be forced to traverse unfamiliar and possibly enemy areas in order to attend their new schools next year.
This is a problem of particular importance for students attending the six schools that will close in Englewood and West Englewood. Due to the nature of neighborhood and block loyalties, students express concern for their safety in the commutes through “enemy turf.”
Chicago Public Schools has responded to safety concerns by proposing an increase of nearly $8 million in funding for its Safe Passage program. CPS also promised to bus students moving from schools located more that 0.8 miles away from their new schools.
Activists Appeal to the United Nations to Stop CPS Closures – July 24, 2013
Chicago human rights advocates, led by the Midwest Coalition for Human Rights, have appealed to the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights to review the recent school closures in Chicago.
Among their allegations, the letter suggests that children’s human rights to equality and nondiscrimination were violated. As argued in lawsuits already filed to stop the school closures, the activists contend that African American students are disproportionately affected by the school closures.
African American students account for 40 percent of students enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. However, 80 percent of students affected by the school closings are African American.
Activists also argued that children’s human rights will also be violated when school closings force them to cross gang lines in order to get to their new schools.
Though the U.N. does not have jurisdiction over the United States, activists hope that a U.N. investigation would bring international attention to the school closures.