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CPS To Close About 50 Schools; List Could Be Released Today [UPDATE]

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 21, 2013 2:20PM


The Sun-Times broke the news late Wednesday afternoon that Chicago Public Schools is set to announce the closing of about 50 schools they claim are underperforming or underutilized. The school district has until March 31 to announce the closures, but CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett may make the announcement as early as today. Seeing as how this was all the talk on social media last night, deciding to wait any longer would be cruel. The number of schools slated for closure would be the largest in any city’s history. CPS has never closed more than 12 schools in a year and the number would be half of the total of schools closed in the past 10 years.

As expected, schools on the South and West sides will be the hardest hit, and aldermen in wards where school closures will happen have already been informed. Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) told the Sun-Times two schools in his ward, Mahalia Jackson Elementary and Garrett A. Morgan Elementary, are on the list. Morgan, Brookins said, has been working to establish itself as a specialty school for students who are deaf or hearing-impaired. The website (h/t Whet Moser) shows that, while enrollment at both has decreased in recent years, school performance has improved. Both Jackson and Morgan are considered Level 3 schools by CPS, the lowest performing schools on the district’s scale.

As the speculation on when the list of closures intensifies, we highly support Moser’s recommendation to check out and the Chicago Public Schools Utilization Map, which analyzes targeted schools with CPS’ argument for closing them using information from the City’s Open Data Portal. Creators Josh Kalov and Derek Eder have done a great job of cutting through the white noise and no-speak on the school closure debate by comparing CPS’ recommended 30-students-per-classroom formula to the Apples2Apples 30-student-maximum formula (also developed by Kalov) to ask hard questions like, does CPS’ central office actually use a 36-student maximum for class size? And are there truly any underutilized schools?

The Chicago Teachers Union responded to the Sun-Times report Wednesday with a statement by President Karen Lewis that said closing this many schools would “send our district into chaos.”

“We do not have a utilization crisis,” she continued. “What we have is a credibility crisis. “CPS continues to peddle half-truths, lies and misinformation in order to justify its campaign to wipe out our schools and carry out this corporate-driven school reform nonsense. However, people are prepared to put their bodies on the line in protest of these unjust policies. We don’t want any schools closed and we intend to illustrate our concerns through nonviolent direct action.

“For the past several weeks there has been a resounding cry against school actions from parents, students, educators and community stakeholders. The Mayor and the CEO have ignored these petitions for justice. Instead, they continue to peddle an “underutilization myth” and “billion dollar deficit lie” as justification for their actions. When research and the facts prove them wrong they simply reconfigure their talking points in order to further this sham and keep us playing their school reform game. Teachers will continue to oppose any attempt by this school district to destroy our learning centers and disrupt the lives of our students and their parents.

“Enough with the lies--school closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see costs benefits in two years,” she continued. “Vibrant school communities quickly transform into abandon buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards. The Mayor has denied saying 25 percent of our students will ‘never be anything,’ ‘will never amount to anything,’ and that’s why he won’t put “any resources behind them.’ Yet, look at the policies his administration inflicts upon our families and look at where these school actions are taken place. This city has abandoned affordable housing, abandoned public safety and now it is abandoning our schools. We must do everything we can stand in the vanguard for our children. One school closed is one too many.”

CTU is planning a March 27 rally at 4 p.m. in Daley Plaza to protest the closings.

Update 2:05 p.m.: DNAInfo Chicago has a list of possible school closures they've been frequently updating. The Sun-Times has its own list of closures, some of which are not on the DNAInfo list.