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State Task Force Critical Of CPS School Closures

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 25, 2014 4:00PM

Photo credit: Ken Smith

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett may claim last year’s decision to close nearly 50 schools a success but a report released by a state agency has a different take.

The Illinois Board of Education’s Chicago Education Facilities Task Force found CPS’ 10-year facilities master plan and their historic closing of “underused” schools wasn’t planned well, and that the facilities plan was not completed until after the school closings were completed. The report was also critical of CPS’ decision to open 33 new charter schools in the past three years while closing the other schools.

Possibly the most damning aspect of the report was the assertion CPS’ school turnaround and closing strategy may be a contributing factor in the district’s declining enrollment. The task force pegged the cost to taxpayers for last year’s closings at $263 million, and CPS had already spent $196 million on work on school facilities it eventually closed.

While this may come as a huge “DUH!” to critics of CPS and the closures, the task force did not mince words all the same. Task force member Cecille Carroll-Demello told the Sun-Times, “It will always make you wonder, where did that money come from to do that project when we were just told the narrative that we have all the detrimental budget issues.”

CPS spokesman Joel Hood took issue with the report and said it was “highly inaccurate.” The district’s former public policy chief, Michael Rendina, told the Sun-Times the report sourced data that was written without his input and was taken out of context.

“As a member of the Task Force and each of its subcommittees, CPS is gravely concerned that such an important document would be created and presented for a vote without first consulting and receiving input from all Task Force members, especially the member that is the most knowledgeable about the subject.”

We’ve included the report below.