Unclear Impact of Lawsuit on Ren10

David Mendell reports in today's Tribune that a county judge determined yesterday that a lawsuit by homeless advocates against Ren10 for displacing homeless students starting in 2004 can go forward.  How that will affect Ren10 is unclear.

Homeless suit on schools advances

By David Mendell

Tribune staff reporter

Published February 2, 2006

A Cook County judge ruled Wednesday
that a nearly two-year-old lawsuit filed by a homeless advocacy group
against the Chicago Public Schools can go forward, potentially setting
the case on a course for trial.

But attorneys for the school system characterized the overall ruling as
a victory, saying the judge allowed for the district's controversial
school reform efforts to continue.

The Chicago Coalition for
the Homeless sued the school district in September 2004, alleging that
the system's controversial Renaissance 2010 reform initiative broke
provisions of a case settled in 2000 that called for the district to
provide educational stability to homeless children.

Renaissance
2010 is a reform effort in which schools deemed "chronically
underperforming" are closed in favor of opening 100 new, independently
run schools by 2010. The homeless group argued that the district did
not adequately provide transitional help to homeless students displaced
from closing schools.

The first wave of closings came in June
2004, when the district shuttered 10 underenrolled schools and
transferred 4,000 students. The lawsuit estimated that at least 160
homeless students protected by the 2000 agreement were displaced by the
first round of closings. It's unclear how many are involved in this
year's round of four school closings.

"We think this decision
today was totally favorable to us and a major loss for them," said
Laurene Heybach, an attorney for the homeless coalition.

School
attorneys, however, disagreed. They said the real intent of the lawsuit
was to stop or slow the Renaissance 2010 reform by getting the court to
block further school closings--and the judge on Wednesday effectively
allowed those closings to continue.

In her ruling, Judge Julia
M. Nowicki called for the district to "consider the impact upon
homeless students when deciding which schools it will close and
implement a plan to account for the harmful effects on homeless
children."

But the judge added that this "does not contradict
the discretion" of the school system to close schools as part of
Renaissance 2010.

Patrick Rocks, general counsel for the school
district, said, "The judge has just ruled that the Board of Education
has the authority and discretion to close schools."

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dmendell@tribune.com

Filed under: 125 S. Clark Street

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