Reversal On Closings

This makes no sense to me, but I guess Christmas has come early or I just don’t get something.  CPS is now proposing a five year moratorium on school closings, starting in 2013, in order to do more parent engagement and promote stability. What are they going to do with all the 100,000 empty seats, and the associated costs?  Why are they doing this now, and insisting on doing the 2012 closings?   Why do they think they can do this any better than Duncan or Huberman?  CPS press release is below, along with various links. More to come, I’m sure.


… Chicago proposes 5 year moratorium on school closings after 2013 – Yahoo! News… Chicago schools CEO has ‘right-sizing’ plan – WGEM… Chicago proposes moratorium on school closings after 2013  CPS boss proposes 5-year moratorium on school closings –… SCPS Announces Five-Year Moratorium on Facility Closures Starting in Fall 2013


CEO Outlines Vision for District at City Club Luncheon

Chicago – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett today made a public commitment to implement a five-year moratorium on CPS facility closures starting in fall 2013, should CPS be granted the extension to announce proposed school actions that it has requested from the Illinois General Assembly.

The moratorium would provide long-term stability to students, parents and school communities after CPS develops and enacts a comprehensive plan to right-size the District, which currently has space for 500,000 students, but only has 400,000 enrolled. CEO Byrd-Bennett announced the moratorium during a City Club of Chicago luncheon, where she presented her vision for the District and highlighted efforts to launch an open and transparent engagement plan to ensure that communities are involved at the front end of the school actions process.

“Mayor Emanuel recognizes that for many years CPS has made too many piecemeal decisions around school actions, which has caused unnecessary disruption to students, parents and schools across our city,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “Once we execute a final, comprehensive plan to address the utilization issues facing our District, the Mayor has requested that we implement this moratorium as we believe this will bring stability to our school communities, and I will personally commit to ensuring that this is a commitment CPS keeps.”

In order to rigorously engage the community and seek input into CPS’ space utilization issues, CEO Byrd-Bennett appointed the independent Commission on School Utilization, a nine-member group with various expertise that will make recommendations to the CEO around right-sizing the District. The Commission will hold public meetings across the city, listen and gather input from parents, teachers and school communities, meet with subject matter experts and present a written report in March to guide CEO Byrd-Bennett in making decisions around school actions.

Chaired by Frank Clark, the former chairman and CEO of ComEd, the Commission is holding its first public hearing today at UIC to hear testimony from CPS officials and other researchers about school enrollment reports, finance challenges facing the District and other data being considered by the Commission. A transcript and video of the meeting, as well as future meeting dates, will be available on the Commission’s website Next, the Commission will hold five public hearings to solicit community input, one in each part of the city.

“It is critical that before we take any measures to right-size our District that rigorous and transparent community engagement be done on the front end of this process, not the back end, so we can truly listen to the concerns and ideas of our school communities,” added CEO Byrd-Bennett. “I believe this process will allow us to better position our District to have strong neighborhood schools in each community that provide our children with the high-quality education they deserve.”

CPS is seeking a one-time extension from the Illinois General Assembly of the Dec. 1 statutory deadline to announce school actions. CEO Byrd-Bennett will travel to Springfield during the upcoming veto session to work with the original sponsors, State Senator Iris Martinez and State Representative Cynthia Soto, as well as other legislators, to amend the law governing school actions. If CPS receives the extension, the District would announce proposed school actions by March 31, 2013, after the Commission has made its recommendations to CEO Byrd-Bennett.

Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


“We know that our city has a significant number of schools that are underutilized, stretching resources thin and not giving every student a quality education. In the past, there has been too much uncertainty around changes to our schools: year after year, Chicago Public Schools did not do an adequate job of engaging communities in these critical decisions, and year after year students, families and communities were left wondering of what was to come. That ends this year. With the Commission CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett has appointed, Chicagoans will be involved in the conversation about any changes to our district this year; and after this year, I have directed CPS to implement a moratorium on CPS facility closures, ending unnecessary disruption to students and parents and bringing stability to our schools.”


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  • Crain's: Byrd-Bennett offers a carrot in school-closure debate @shiakapos

  • ctu's not buying it:

    CTU Wants Full Moratorium on All School Actions This Year, including closings, turnarounds and phase-outs

    CHICAGO –The Chicago Teachers Union continues to advocate for a full moratorium on all school closings, phase-outs, restarts and turnarounds and will actively oppose any school actions that involve these draconian methods. The union believes a moratorium must begin this year and no school should face destruction while the Chicago Public Schools admits to a flawed and unclear process.
    CTU issued these remarks today in response to the district’s announcement that it will seek a five-year moratorium on school closings if state lawmakers grant an extension on announcing which schools will be hit with campus shut downs. The union’s leaders will travel to Springfield during the veto session to tell lawmakers CPS should not circumvent state law and should be ordered to reveal its hit list for school closings on December 1.
    CTU President Karen GJ Lewis said” Today’s announcement is nothing more than a sleight of hand on behalf of the school district. CPS school actions target communities of color. How can the district cry ‘under-utilization’ as a justification for school closings while it simultaneously approves the opening of new charter campuses? If CPS can afford to hold off on shutting down schools for the next five years, they can afford to hold off on shutting down our schools this year.”
    Last year, the Chicago Education Facilities Taskforce issued a report that debunked CPS’ under-utilization claim. (Read the report here.) In part it stated: “CPS identifies 224 schools as utilizing less than 50% of their ‘capacity’—but there is clearly a problem: CPS currently operates with an average of 96 gross square feet per student (over all grade levels and school types).” The taskforce said using the national median for school space utilization…, many schools deemed “under-utilized” by CPS would in fact, be “at capacity” or even over-crowded. The district’s flawed formula leads to inaccurate conclusions about under-utilization and ultimately leads to bad decisions, the Illinois General Assembly taskforce concluded.

    Added CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, “The CEO has said ‘if’ state lawmakers will grant the district a March 31 extension they will implement a ‘five-year moratorium’ on facility closings. CPS must not play politics and poker with the lives and education of our students. Their actions have a human cost—children lose their schools and educators lose their jobs.”
    CTU maintains that a moratorium should remain in effect until CPS has completed and published a study done by an independent researcher on the impact of the school actions on the students, community, and affected personnel; CPS has held appropriate public hearings based on the study findings; CPS has published a clearly delineated set of criteria for school actions, and left those criteria in place for at least two years; and, CPS has designed and implemented a legitimate process in which community, parent, and union members make decisions about how to best improve our schools.
    More than 42,000 students have been directly impacted by CPS School Actions since 2001. Black students represented 88 percent of students affected. Schools that are over 99 percent students of color have been the primary target of CPS school actions – representing over 80 percent of all affected schools. Black communities have been hit the hardest – 3-out-of-every-4 affected schools were economically poor and intensely segregated African American schools.

  • still trying to piece this logic together, but so far it sounds like CPS/city hall got worried over the weekend (?) that it was losing legislative support for the extension and needed to offer a moratorium.... martinez? leadership?

    politically and practically the task is enormous -- roughly speaking it would take 100 schools closing to get just to 50,000 seats reduced (at 500 per school) -- basically the entire last 10 years of closings all in a single year.

    ctu obv isn't buying any of this, and would fight any closings tooth and nail -- so i don't know how this gets done in terms of winning any kind of peace. (i also don't know what good it does for ctu to bankrupt the district in order to protect jobs)

    the optics are pretty awful, i have to say -- seems like cps/ctu keep making concessions over and over again, and the other side keeps saying no closings, no way, there's no overcapacity, closings are dangerous....

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Alexander - I just don't get it. Why would the CTU oppose closings when per the CBA, teachers who are competent follow those kids to new schools? As you said, why would they prefer to bankrupt the system and risk continuing to under-fund the pensions? Are there that many teacher rated so low that they will not be hired at the consolidated schools? Are there that many under-enrolled classrooms (20-25 kids or less) so that fewer total teachers would be needed? What is the math here or is all about something else?

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Isn't CTU making the point that these "underutilized" schools were "created" from the privatization-charterization of public schools here?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    So the CTU opposition to consolidations is to protect the size of the union workforce?

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    I'm confused also however I think it was their only move to make a promise that they probably can't keep (five years of no closings, not to mention that there is minimal chance that anyone in leadership is still at CPS in five years).

    City Hall has been worried about closings for months now. Don't kid yourself Alex that they woke up after Thanksgiving and realized they have a problem. Quinn and Rahm have been at war in the press for a while now...

    The real question is... why is CPS even asking for an extension? They've known about the Dec. 1 date, they announced last year on that date... so what changed? Are they unprepared? Did they not do their homework? Is Rahm so politically wounded from the strike that they're just stalling? Is there infighting between CPS leaders? Disagreement between City Hall and CPS? It's all very odd.

  • It seems clear to me that the reason CPS is saying they will offer a "moratorium" if they get their extension, is because they probably actually plan to close all of the schools they would close over the next six years, at the end of this school year. If they get their extension, they will use the time to identify every school that they would potentially close in the next six years. So, it really won't be a moratorium, because they will close them all at the end of this year.

  • In reply to Teacher:

    This is exactly my theory as well.

  • How, again, will the closings save big, big money (net)?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    80 to 100 million per year all from physical plant and FROM NON TEACHING salaries savings. Year after year. Ten years is 1 billion. It's not a one time savings deal. It is big , big money.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Closing the physical plant will not see that kinds of savings. The building will still need heat, electric, security, and an engineer until the building is sold or demolished for safety reasons. Demolition costs money and selling a building won't bring top dollar when work needs to be done to it.

    Of course, they can close those public schools, then give the buildings to the charters and still won't save money since the carrot for the charters is to get a building that is up to code.

    I think some people don't realize that 'gross square foot' includes the hallways, heating plant, gym, lunchroom, and the footprint of the staircases. So a school with 35+ in a classroom could still be considered underutilized and put on the closing list.

  • In reply to ladyfair:

    Demolishing is cheap and a one time cost. No heat, security, engineer needed after that. The buildings have no value other than for another school. In any case the bulk of the savings is in the salaries and wages of under utilized staff NON TEACHING STAFF. A principal for a 350 student school is a part time job. Small schools used to share principals at CPS.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    I wonder what will be the ripple impact on each of the surrounding areas for a newly closed school. Will it speed the de-population of the area? Will Chicago look like Detroit or Flint? Maybe the city should scrape these areas and create urban farms?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Urban farms would be great. See NYT from today
    Good projects for for the usual publicity hounds that like to help with these things Jesse Jackson, Father Phleger, Paster Brooks, etc.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Urban farming is a feel-good niche that will eventually jump the shark. Urban soil is often toxic. Plots are often too small to generate living income. Poor inner city residents growing arugala for the fine-dining 1% is a bubble that will soon burst.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Yes, all entrepreneurial endeavors that make money from rich people should not be considered. Let them eat cake instead perhaps.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    CPS Plant- Urban farming is not sustainable or scalable. While it truly helps a meager handful of urban poor it's primary purpose is to alleviate the guilt of plutocrats and their friends while they nosh on $500 lunches.

    Growing endives on 60th and Racine might be your idea of a sensible way to improve the hood, but a true, teacher-led effort to improve education (funded largely by rich people's tax dollars) would be more meaningful and much more sustainable.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    What should be done with wide, un- and under-populated swaths of Chicago?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    If they are polluted DO NOT grow food there.

    Most of these "wide swaths" are not that wide on an agricultural scale.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    What I see happening around IIT where the projects were torn down is lots of new condos going up, block, after block, after block. Would this repopulate that area with children?

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    The $80 to $100m is very misleading. The savings won't come for years... closing 100 schools next year won't help close the $1b gap in FY14.

  • Having gotten its marching orders from CTU, PURE says "no" on 2013 moratorium

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Does PURE get marching orders from CTU?

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    So Alex, are you suggesting that PURE should support CPS' faux-moratorium? Do you think they are large numbers of parents who disagree with PURE and other parent groups? Do significant numbers of parents support school closures? Where are they? Remember, the last time you featured a parent group it was that goofy astroturf 1/2 dozen that protested against the strike on some bridge downtown. You tried to deny those obvious shills had marching orders.

    When Gov. Ryan issued the moratorium on executions he didn't say "let's kill all of the inmates now on death row and THEN have a moratorium".

  • In reply to district299reader:

    i'm suggesting PURE should show some independence from CTU once in a while, and maybe represent parents and LSCs rather than following the union around on all its positions.

    as for opposing the extension, or the commission, or closings, i'm just not clear about how all that helps CPS parents in the long run. if there aren't the kids, there isn't the money.

    maybe we should put it to a vote to see if parents support closing schools that are at less than 50 percent and see how the results come out from that?

    then again, i think the moratorium is a questionable idea at best, unlikely to win the extension and ugly /scary if it does.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    Having gotten marching orders from his corporate masters, Russo lies, makes stuff up and is generally a dick to everyone.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    most of my comments on this new proposal are critical of CPS and city hall, so the corporate lackey thing doesn't fly.

    making stuff up? not at all. but i may be ignorant. show me a place where PURE and CTU are in any kind of disagreement.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    "In agreement" and "marching orders" are not the same. You and I might have voted for the same presidential candidate, for example, but you didn't take marching orders from me.

  • In reply to district299reader:


  • A moratorium -- in exchange for an extension @WBEZeducation

  • cps says that there's not necessarily any change or increase in the number of schools that would be closed with the moratorium -- not particularly plausible to me -- and that nothing's changed since the original extension / commission proposals were rolled out -- again i'm not sure i buy that either, but that's what they're saying.

    the only hard information i could get from them was that B3 is going to springfield tomorrow and talking / testifying, that CPS has committed not to give closed buildings away to charters, and that last year there were 20 actions but only ten of them were closings (for comparative purposes)

    have asked the reform/charter crowd what they think, and will let you know what they say, if anything.

  • In reply to Alexander Russo:

    If BBB does not "give closed buildings to charters" then CPS obviously plans to sell the closed buildings to charters!!

  • Access Living's position on CPS definition of underutilized

    Access Living formally submitted this statement to CPS:

    Comments on CPS 2012-2013 Draft School Action Guidelines

    By Rodney D. Estvan M.Ed.
    Education Policy Analyst
    November 13, 2012

    We would begin our commentary on the proposed school action guidelines by stating we believe it was a positive development that CPS provided the public and organizations like Access Living that work in the public interest with a commentary period for these guidelines. As the Chicago Public Schools are aware Access Living's primary mission is to increase the ability of people with disabilities to be full participants in society and the education of children and young adults with disabilities plays a foundational role in our mission.


  • Didn't Emanuel learn his lesson after the strike? His technique of trying to fool the public into believing his bad offer is actually a good one (16% raise and nothing else, 5-year moratorium AFTER 100 schools are closed) won't work.

    His corporate-backed neo-liberal agenda keeps backfiring. He pushes his unpopular ideas too hard and as a result loses more ground. His blatant dishonesty and conniving is insulting to the people of this city. Chicagoans don't trust or believe ANYTHING that comes out of his mouth or from CPS.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Like when His Honor said "It's not really a fare increase. You are free to get behind the wheel and drive."

  • “If they are going to fix the entire problem in one fell swoop... it’s gonna have to be a massive action," says CTU's mayle

    sun times story has critical comment from ald sawyer, plus questions from outside experts re whether CPS could pull this off

  • Showdown at 1 pm exec cte meeting re extension amendment to SB547 @chipubschools @ctulocal1 via @tsj

  • The capacity of a school should be whatever the original plans say, including the plans of later additions and annexes.

    Closings impact more students of color because most Chicago students are black or Hispanic and more of the poorly performing schools are in neighborhoods with high poverty rate and mostly minority populations. I really don't think there is a conspiracy.

    The proposed moratorium is on FACILITY actions. A turnaround, charter conversion, splitting a facility into a campus of small schools, or consolidation of a campus into a single school would not be covered by the moratorium. Also remember that they are evaluating the charters and some may be revoked.

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