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Byrd-Bennett Declares Mass School Closings A Success As CPS Wants New Furniture

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 27, 2014 1:45PM


Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Wednesday declared last year’s historic closing of 49 schools a success, based on a district analysis of the closures because of course.

According to this report grades have improved, incidents of misconduct at receiving schools have decreased in the second quarter of the school year (we're more inclined to chalk that up to the uptick in snow days, personally) and “Safe Passage” routes have seen no major violent incidents when they were staffed by workers. Byrd-Bennett told the Chicago School Board, “As a result of the consolidations, we’re stronger today than we were before, and we’re better positioned today to deliver the resources that support all of Chicago’s next generation of children.”

But this is CPS we’re talking about and they can always find a way to waste even genuine acts of good will. On Tuesday, the school district asked for an additional $5 million in its furniture budget for the upcoming move to their new central headquarters in the Loop and eight satellite offices. Because the children may be the future but CPS administrators need to be ergonomically correct in order to piss it away.

CPS already has a $4.5 million contract with Staples but wants the extra money because it would be “expensive” to disassemble, move and reassemble the existing furniture. CPS spokesman Joel Hood told the Sun-Times:

“This is part of CPS’ overall strategy to restructure and streamline its central office,” Hood said in an emailed statement. “By moving to a smaller, more efficient central office in the fall, the district projects to save an additional $60 million over the next 15 years.”

The prospective $9.5 million price tag would raise eyebrows if it came from school districts that actually know how to manage a budget. Chicago Public Schools, whose 2013-14 budget relied on raising property tax levies, tapping into reserve funds and possibly scrounging for loose change in couches and chairs, is clearly not exploring cost-cutting avenues available to the public sector. Remember: this is a school district that can't keep track of how many schools have air conditioning.

But Byrd-Bennett, CPS administrators and their enablers will tell you their inability to draft and maintain a feasible budget isn’t the issue; it’s pension reform, stupid.

Some parents and teachers may find this request for new furniture insulting when they have to beg for the barest of resources at neighborhood schools. Maybe CPS should explore crowdfunding if they’re hurting for new furniture. This mock Indiegogo page promises a one-on-one meeting with Byrd-Bennett for a mere $10,000; the right to close a school of your choice for $25,000; admission for student to Walter Payton College Prep for $250,000; and "The Rauner Reward" for a cool $1.5 million. (They'll even throw in an $18 wristwatch.)


Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis provided the school board with a more realistic view of the fallout from the school closures.

“There are still 800 students unaccounted for from the entire move last year,” she said. “These are things that are never discussed publicly that need to be discussed publicly.”

The School Board unanimously approved CPS' request for the additional furniture allotment.