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New CTU report analyzes massive public school closings on one-year anniversary

by ctu communications  |  05/21/2014

CHICAGO—The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released today a report on the state of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) one year after the Board of Education (BOE) voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program, the largest, one-time school closing action in U.S. history and a decision made in the wake of massive opposition and protests throughout the city of Chicago.

The study, titled “Twelve Months Later: The Impact of School Closings in Chicago,” looks at what happened as a result of the mass school closings of 2013, and answers such questions as: Were CPS promises for receiving schools kept? How much money was saved? Did resources increase at affected schools? Have services increased for special education students at consolidated schools.

On May 22, 2013, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked BOE shuttered 50 neighborhood school communities, “turned around” five schools and co-located 17 others. Faced with widespread opposition to this action, CPS promised hundreds of millions of dollars in capital improvements and transition supports for schools receiving students from closed schools. CTU examination of the evidence has found, however, that promises made to receiving schools were hollow in many cases and only partially fulfilled in others. Among the findings:

  • Receiving schools are still disproportionately under-resourced compared to other elementary schools.
  • Students were moved to schools with libraries, but funds weren’t available to hire librarians. Just 38% of receiving schools have librarians on staff, whereas across CPS, 55% of elementary schools have librarians.
  • Computer labs were upgraded at receiving schools but only one-fifth of these schools have technology teachers.
  • CPS touted iPads for all receiving-school students, but included few related professional learning opportunities for teachers.
  • CPS spent millions on large-scale programmatic changes at 30 elementary schools, but the success and continued funding of STEM and IB programs remain to be seen.

“Shuttering our schools was touted as a hard and difficult choice by the mayor and the Board, but this was the easy, draconian choice,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “Parents, teachers, and the public demanded resources and supports for these education communities.  Sadly, by making promises that remain unfulfilled, these schools and the students they serve have been dealt yet another blow—from failed policy to broken promises.”

For this report, the CTU interviewed teachers from seven of the receiving schools to gather information about the fulfilment of CPS promises. Additionally, researchers reviewed CPS material on the school closures, operating and capital budget documents, position files, vacancy reports, class size data, and other public data.

Chicago Teachers Union