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CPS to ask to delay school action announcements

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said today she plans to ask the state legislature to postpone by four months--from Dec. 1 to March 31--the announcement of proposed school actions.

CTU President Karen Lewis reiterated her stance that Byrd-Bennett put a moratorium on school closings for a year. She said waiting to make an announcement til March 31 doesn’t give parents and teachers enough time to prepare for a school closing the following fall.

“It is time to step back and do some analysis,” Lewis said.

But others seemed to welcome Byrd-Bennett’s desire to spend more time to get community feedback before making the announcements.

Byrd-Bennett, who just weeks ago took over the helm of Chicago Public Schools, rejected the idea of waiting a year. She said CPS has a projected $1 billion deficit and it would be fiscally irresponsible for her not to make some moves this year. CPS officials say they can save anywhere from $500,000 to $800,000 annually per school. 

Byrd-Bennett has refused to say how many schools she will close this year. However, the administration will hone in on servely underutilized schools. According to CPS, 140 schools are more than 50 percent underutilized.

The delay to March, Byrd-Bennett said, will give her the time she needs to engage the community in an “authentic” discussion. Also, on Friday, she appointed a nine-member Commission on School Utilization.

Commission members will be charged with holding public hearings, collecting information and coming up with recommendations about which schools to close. Byrd-Bennett did not commit to following the commission’s recommendations.

Among the commission members is State Sen. Iris Martinez, who is also co-chair of the Chicago Educational Facilities Taskforce. The taskforce, created by the General Assembly, pushed the bill that established the timeline for announcing school actions.

To get the deadline postponed, a lawmaker will have introduce a bill and it would have to be voted on during the veto session that starts Nov. 27. The other co-chair of the taskforce, Rep. Cynthia Soto, said she and her colleagues have a lot of questions for CPS before they support changing the law to extend the deadline. She said they have a meeting set up.

When the Chicago school facilities bill was approved in 2011, the timeline was seen as a major victory for activists. For a long time, they complained it was too late to let parents and teachers know in late winter or Spring that their school was to be closed.

Many times the announcement about school closings came after deadlines for parents to apply to magnet, selective enrollment and charter schools, thereby limiting their options.

This year, the deadline to apply for magnet and selective enrollment school is Dec. 14 and letters of acceptances are supposed to be sent out well before March 31. Each charter school has a different application deadline, but many of them are early Spring.

“We control the deadlines,” said Byrd-Bennett. Her team is looking at ways to make sure that students and parents will be able to apply to schools, should they learn their school is to be targeted in late March.

State Sen. Heather Steans said that after talking to Martinez she supports the delay in the announcement of proposed school actions. Martinez told her the commission will be going out to every community and talking to them about school actions.

“I think that if we can get real community input the process is going to work much better,” she said.

She also noted that when school closings are announced, schools often are thrown into turmoil. If the announcement comes later in the school year, students will experience less upheaval, she said.

But Lewis said it is not good for parents, students and teachers to be left scrambling looking for new options so late in the school year. She pointed out that it is not clear how much of a financial benefit the school district will reap by closing schools.

Some districts that have closed schools in the past have not realized big savings. Also, the savings are dependent on the school district closing schools and not opening new ones in their place. In Chicago, the vast majority of schools closed over the past decade currently house new schools, many of them charter schools.

Byrd-Bennett said she doesn’t want to entangle the discussions about closing schools and opening charter schools. “Once we have the building closed, we will look at it and talk about what goes in there,” she said, at a discussion at the Chicago Urban League Friday morning.

Byrd-Bennett said she was once anti-charter schools until she had a chance to tour one in Harlem a few years ago and was impressed. Now, she said she doesn’t care what kind of school it is as long as it is doing well by children.

Lewis said Byrd-Bennett wants to separate the discussions because having them together reveals that the policy doesn’t make any sense. “It is not realistic to say we are closing schools for under-utilization, while at the same time opening new schools,” she said.

The members of the commission are:

  • State Sen. Iris Martinez
  • Frank Clark, former chairman and CEO of ComEd
  • John Hannah, senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church on the South Side
  • Terry Hillard, former Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department
  • Ald. Howard Brookins, 21st Ward on the South Side
  • Fausto Lopez, a former CPS principal
  • Earnest Gates, head of the Near West Side Community Development Commission
  • Shirley Calhoun, assistant parent coordinator of Fiske Elementary School on the South Side
  • Debra Perkins, former CPS teacher









Valerie F.Leonard wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Put Charters on the Table, Too

You cannot "not entangle" the discussions of opening charter schools with closing traditional neighborhood schools, particularly, if all the schools are part of the Chicago Public School system. If charters, magnets and traditional neighborhood schools are all using school facilities, then the conversation needs to encompass ALL FACILITIES.

CPS wants it both ways. They want to include charters as "public schools" and lobby for more funding and for their expansion. When it comes time to holding ALL schools accountable to the same standards of performance and utilization, now, CPS wants to discuss them separately. The truth is, there are a number of charter schools that are under-utilized and/or under-performing AND HAVE NEVER SINCE THEIR INCEPTION (in some cases up to 14 years) made AYP. Yet, the school actions guidelines do not address them. Charters should demonstrate a track record of success before they are allowed to expand. Until CPS is ready to close the "sacred cow" charter schools that have never made AYP, they need not have ANY conversations about closing neighborhood schools.

If we are to have a functional school system,we cannot continue to allow CPS to promulgate policies that pit charters against traditional neighborhood schools by starving neighborhood schools of resources, while channeling all the innovations and new funding sources to magnets and charters. Nor can we have "sacred cows". This cannabalization would not be tolerated in corporations, and it should not be tolerated in Chicago Public Schools. The captains of industry on the Chicago Board of Education would never have advanced in the private sector if they ran their companies or divisions the way they run CPS. This is criminal, and no less destructive than the Separate but Equal policies that brought about Brown v the Board of Education of Topeka, KS.

Valerie F.Leonard wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Don't Use the Deficits to Justify

If my memory serves me correctly,every year, in recent years, CPS has routinely projected budget deficits of $500 million to about $1 billion in the middle of the year and ended the years with surpluses (under Daley, Duncan and Huberman). The deficit has never been a rallying cry to close schools en masse, as Mayor Emanuel is doing. The problem of under utilization is a problem of CPS' own making. They have pushed for creation of more new schools and charter school expansion in communities where population has declined significantly due to tearing down public housing; government seizure of project-based Section 8 housing; the mortgage foreclosure crisis and other factors. There is a shrinking pool of students to "go around" for a growing number of schools in the neighborhoods. This situation is compounded by the fact that investors are lining up to purchase empty CPS properties to rent to charters. The investors will get their return. CPS will realize paltry savings. What will the students get? De-stabilized neighborhoods and interruption in their routines. Somehow, this does not seem like a fair exchange.

Valerie F.Leonard wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

What's Up With the Commission?

It was not necessary to create a commission to do what CPS management and staff should be doing as a part of their jobs. It seems as if they were set up to take the heat for the unpopular decisions that they are about to make. Moreover, this commission seems a little redundant, given the fact that the State has already created a task force comprised of legislators, the CPS President, CEO and youth representative, community stakeholders and representatives from CTU and CPAA. Also, I can't help but wonder why the head of the City Council Education Committee is not on this commission.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

"She said they have a meeting

"She said they have a meeting set up."
When is it?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

by this quote, BBB's transparency is not clouded:

Byrd-Bennett said she doesn’t want to entangle the discussions about closing schools and opening charter schools. “Once we have the building closed, we will look at it and talk about what goes in there...”
We all know 'what goes in there'.

xian barrett wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

State Law

I think it's a shame that Chicago Public Schools contributes to a culture of lawlessness by continuously perpetuating the notion that they can simply ignore state laws when they have not done the work to comply.

If you miss the deadline, wait until next year.

Valerie F.Leonard wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Right on, Xian!

Right on, Xian!

sad teacher wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago


Do they just want parents to grovel. Ok she likes charter schools based on a visit in harlem.....maybe she just rented waiting for superman. State law is the law...then maybe we can revisit sb7.......yeah right

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

December 1 Deadline

BBB's approach is extremely wise (with a very selfish purpose) but this should not be acceptable. The state law should be upheld. I am wondering how we can mobilize and convey to our legislators the need to hold CPS to this law. They do have an option if they need more time, wait until next year!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Byrd-Bennett's Really Bad, No Good Idea to Delay Announcement

As others have said, Byrd-Bennett's proposed delay harms the staff and students of the schools to be closed.
Teachers and parents will have no time to seek alternative schools of their choosing.
They will be most often forced to take the incoming charter option.
They will have less time to protest closings.

As for the panel, why were no credible parent groups invited to sit? The politically connected sitting on yet another panel doesn't inspire confidence in Chicago.

Dwayne Truss wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

School Closings

BBB revealed her lack of credibility because she avoided my question or made any comments about the agreement CPS signed with the Gate Foundation (with no public input) to open up to 60 new charter schools over the next five years.

It is literally impossible to have a truthful conversation because BBB refuses to "entangle charter schools" in the school closing discussion.

We all must commit to lobbying our elected officials, suburban and downstate legislators to vote "no" to any amendment to the school actions deadline and vote "yes" to NO SCHOOL CLOSINGS period.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Are you starting an online

Are you starting an online version/petition of this? I agree with you,they must hear our voice and a resounding NO!

urbanteach wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

What does this tell us? Anything new?

By asking for an extension what does this tell us? Nothing has been in place prior to now to look seriously at the crisis that has been touted by the board for over a year? A crisis of dollars and "empty seats" and lack of community input. Wow. What a way to describe the ineffective running of CPS central office. We have not done our jobs up until now (buzzer rings).

As a classroom teacher we have minutes to reorganize and restructure with the tossing of any new agenda item touted by network offices. Five days to adopt an entire new approach to unit planning and new standards. Students barely entered the door before they were charged with two assessments to measure their abilities. Who better can understand a time crunch. Well, 17months of leadership appointed by our mayor is not exactly a time crunch now is it?

If BBB is sincere about her approach as described on Chicago Tonight, this is a bad start.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

It is clear that she is not sincere

Call your state rep and state senator and tell them not to change the law for BBB.

Bob Keys wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Do Not Change the Deadline!

Parents and teachers are already in distress about December 1, being the deadline.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 10 weeks ago

Dec 1st

Not to be a deacon of doom ( and please reread the contract to verify this). BUT if your school is put on the closing list, and you currently have a satisfactory rating, your days with CPS are over basically forever. You will not qualify for any rehire pool. Read the contract. I don't know why CTU isn't getting this word out. Again, maybe I am wrong, so double check and call the union. We will not be rated this year, so you can't increase your rating as far as I can see. The reach is only being used for practice. Now if you currently are an "excellent", I don't know if you can have your rating lowered?

Once CTU's darling Obama is elected, and they get their pension bill voted down, they NEED to help those of us working under "satisfactory" standing understand what chances we have if our schools close down. From what I have read, It doesn't look good.

Can anyone answer these questions:

1-are any teachers being evaluated this year?
2-Is it true, satisfactory teachers are not eligible for rehire pool ...also is this FOREVER???

The Go Family wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Closing School Announcement

Thanks to all that are strongly for the the announcement of school closing. Let's get this over with and move on to more constructive areas that really needs work from all of us. School closing is a necessary evil that must take place now! The law is the law. December 1 is the deadline. I do not believe the law makers will delay the school closing announcement and process. It all sounds good, if BBB wants some heat off her administration. But I believed she will have to pull the trigger anyway to give the bad news to those families.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

A moratorium might be a

A moratorium might be a better idea. It is not clear that 100 schools must close, or that there will be significant savings, especially after reading Catalysts' reporting by Sarah Karp.

It is clear that parents do not know what CPS study of the costs and benefits involved points to closing 100 schools.

The Go Family wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

School Closing Extension March 31, 2013

I strongly agree with you. For those that understand what is going on and are enlighted with the facts, understand the confussion her announcement and comments will caused. Wasting more time and spending more money on the idea of delaying the school closing process what a bad move. She needs to take a stand and live with that decision. In the position she is holding she will never make everyone happy..

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Actually, I am asking that

Actually, I am asking that the closings not go forward. Looking for a moratorium on closing traditional public school and on opening new charter schools.

Closing schools destabilizes students and communities. As Sarah Karp wrote, there is no clear cost savings.

Chartes do not outperform, so why open so many more?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

No Charters Promised in Gates Compact

There are NO new charters promised in the Gates Compact. Lots of claims are made about this vague document by people who have not read it.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Maybe you can provide a

Maybe you can provide a linK?
CPS has said it wants to open 60 charters. That is established.

Go Family wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Charters Schools

People, Charter Schools offer the parents a chance to choose the school of their chose. Unless you are a union supporter, there should be no argument about this system for parents to have. Competition never hurts to have children get the best education out of this. There are less politics in the Charter schools system. Charter Schools strongly encourage the parents to become involved with their childrens education process. If the Charter schools fails to produce a lower drop out of students and fails to have students do well academically, it is less of a problem to close the school than a Public School.

Valerie F.Leonard wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

I know of some charter

I know of some charter schools that have never made AYP in up to 14 years of their entire existence, and even been on the receiving end of the highest negative sanctions from the federal government,yet are praised by the Secretary of Education as models for educating inner city African Americans. Personally, I don't have a problem with charter schools. I do have a huge problem with our education policies that diminish resources available to traditional neighborhood schools while diverting them to charters; promoting charters while stigmatizing neighborhood schools; insisting that the magic comes from the legal structure of the school versus leadership, environmental factors and children's readiness and discipline; creating disruption by closing/turning around and upside down schools wholesale and perpetuating the myth that success in education can be replicated like producing widgets in assembly lines; the fact that charter schools are not held accountable to the same standards and consequences that traditional schools are; that has CPS board members advocating for resources for charters and leaving neighborhood schools to die on the vine; demonizing the unions and scapegoating teachers and principals. This is just the short list. Bottom line is, CPS needs to stop creating policies that pit charters versus neighborhood schools and cannibalize their own institutions. The people who are on the board would never do that in their own businesses, and should not be doing it to public schools.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Ms.Leonard, you have said it

Ms.Leonard, you have said it all. thank you.

Go Family wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Ms. Leonard, How are We Paying for The Empty Building?

Ok Ms Leonard, you sound intelligent, how do you suggest we balance the budget? Are you willing to give move taxes? I want to hear your business overview of how you plan to balance the budget and keep the building heated, maintained and keep those teachers employed.

CPS Teacher wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Wake up Go Family!

Unfortunately Go Family, you have fallen for the tricks of CPS! You speak of having choice for families with CPS having Charter School options as if this is some magic bullet. Wake up! If you think you are going to have more accountability and more choice with Charters, that by design, ignore the special education population, ESL students and students with other social/emotional/behavior issues, you are dreaming. The Charter Schools have less accountability in addressing the educational needs of these children in not having to accept this population of students and by not having to defend their shortcomings like the public schools do. By the way, in most cases, the shortcomings of the public schools have been created by the lack of funding and leadership at CPS and the State of Illinois (Mike Madigan). I understand your defending parental choice in education, Go Family, but you must understand that as more real public institutions shut down and are replaced with corporate reforms disguised as "educational choices" marketed persuasively for public consumption, then you will have less of a choice or no choice at all. In addition, you will also have no voice. It is frustrating enough that CPS and the Illinois State legislature have this sort of "Wild West" mentality where no rules or laws apply to them. The Ill St legis has an agenda that is not in the public interest and they have the power to control our living, working and educational environment that best serves their interests and not the public's best interest. If you want "real choice" in education, then there needs to be a level playing field and there is not. You have to look at the money, Go Family. You see Charter Schools have not been created to add value to communities and the families that live in these communities. Charter Schools are an investment vehicle for many very wealthy business people. Mr. Rauner and his foundation, Rauner is Emanuel's right-hand man and The Madigan Family Foundation are major contributors to these educational trojan horses called turnarounds, charters and other alternatives to mainstream public education. Do you really believe that the very people who are currently and have been denying adequate funding, training and support (CPS has actually admitted to starving schools financially for up to 9 years so that they can shut them down) are now suddenly so dedicated and consumed with good-will and the drive to provide a robust and quality education to communities? Really? Curious, because these Charter Schools use an alternative educational platform that requires less transparency and accountability. How convenient. Sounds like a pretty good business to me. These new educational offerings might sound good and actually in some communities and with particular areas of our population may actually work. However, make no mistake, these new innovative and well-marketed "educational choices" are really a business venture for many wealthy people that will eventually be abandoned when the business is no longer thriving. Then these business people will leave town and leave all of the mess they have created to move on to the next business venture. We will be burdened with the mess they will have created and left behind. Public choice should be for the benefit of the public. Comparing the Charters and the public schools is like comparing apples to oranges. The amount of marketing and investments that have gone in to Charters is unbelievable to say the least. What a slap in the face of all of the taxpayers that the CPS has all but abandoned its school for decades with underfunding, decaying and unsafe schools. Now suddenly, a better alternative has sprung up with award winning architectural structures and innovative technologies not available to public schools. You see, public options have already been abandoned and have for some time. I am so frustrated that people don't pay attention to the obvious. Open your eyes and pay attention to what is going on and put two-and-two together. I am a Union member that did not have a choice but to strike for evaluation ratings and pay. My colleagues and I would rather have fought for adequate funding, resources and clean working facilities for our students. Pipe dreams. SIlly pipe dreams.

CPS Teacher wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Empty Buildings

With all due respect, Go Family, Ms. Leonard should not have to answer those questions. Once, again, you need to be pointing a finger elsewhere and demanding an answer in regard to your questions posted from someone who is making a six figure salary on Clark Street. We are all taxpayers and have a right to ask those kinds of questions, however, they need to be directed to the people who's job it is to be maintaining the budget, buildings, etc.

CPS Teacher wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Empty Buildings

Another comment. From what I understand, however, I could be mistaken, Rauner Emmanuel's right-hand man, has been an investor in some of the empty lots/buildings around the city. Also, after CPS schools have been emptied out, many Charter schools have taken over the buildings and rent them out for $1 a year from CPS. Yes, and CPS is so concerned about the finances and all. Lots of conflicts of interest going on all the way from the Illinois State Legislature to little ol' CPS. Curious to say the least.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 9 weeks ago

Dear Ms. Lenz, Would very

Dear Ms. Lenz, Would very much like to see reporting from Catalyst on charters as a business opportunity. So that taxpayers can understand the issue from all perspectives? The New Market Tax Credit, the green card for foreigners for a $500,000 minimum investment, and the hedge fund managers investments in EMOs.

Wuld also like to see reporting on the relative performance of charter and traditional public schools. The Trib's Jeff Coen found no difference. Ben Joravsky found no difference. What can you tell us?

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