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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

For the Record: Maintenance costs for closed schools cut by $300 million

To help sell its plans for closing 50 schools, CPS leaders claimed that it would cost more than $400 million over the next decade to keep the buildings open, repair them and maintain them. Closings the buildings would thus save a big chunk of money.

But now that the district is trying to get the shuttered buildings off the books, officials have dramatically reduced their initial estimate of maintenance costs.

CPS now says that it would cost only about $100 million to maintain the buildings, as schools, over the next 10 years, according to a Request-for-Proposals that was issued in February to solicit bids from real estate agents. CPS also includes TIF information for each school, showing how much money is available from tax increment financing, an incentive program that developers can access to pay for capital improvements.

Cecile Carroll of the grassroots group Blocks Together says she is alarmed that CPS is having brokers look at the schools before getting feedback from the community about what they would like to see the buildings used for. 

Carroll and a few other activists showed up on Thursday at the closed Ward school where, according to the RFP, district officials were going to conduct a walk-through for potential brokers. Unbeknownst to them, CPS had withdrawn the RFP and was rescheduling the walkthroughs.

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said the RFP was withdrawn because officials wanted to clarify some of the language around community involvement in the process. He said the solicitation for brokers was just in case the community couldn’t come up with a use for the building and a broker was needed. 

About four of the new estimates on the RFP don’t differ much from last year’s figure. But most of the differences are huge. For example, CPS estimated that it would avoid spending $25 million by closing Morgan in Auburn Gresham. Now, it says the cost to maintain it as a school is $287,000, and just $256,000 to maintain as a vacant property. 

A more typical example is Songhai on the Far South Side. Last year, CPS estimated it would avoid spending $8 million over a decade by the closing the school. Now, it is telling potential developers that it will only cost $340,000 yearly to maintain.

Hood said the estimates last year included "needed capital improvements."

"The maintenance numbers in the this RFP (as a school) are our own estimates about what it would likely cost someone to operate this building as a school or office building or whatever else," Hood wrote in an e-mail. "It only takes into account annual utility costs, janitorial services, landscaping, etc."

However, some of the criticism of the original cost estimates were that they included capital improvement projects, even though CPS often puts off improving buildings for decades.

From the moment that CPS put out cost-savings estimates last winter, principals and parents questioned the figures. One principal told Catalyst Chicago that when he saw the district’s huge estimate for maintenance, he immediately knew that the numbers would be used against his school and that it would be targeted for closure. 

A joint analysis by Catalyst and WBEZ/Chicago Public Media showed that the cost savings touted last year were significantly flawed, and were based on outdated assessments of building needs and other flawed information.

The RFP only included information for 41 schools because some of those shuttered are not being sold. About five already have new uses planned, such as Lafayette in Humboldt Park, which will become the new home for Chi Arts. Some schools shared a building with a school that is still operating: for instance, Wadsworth was consolidated with nearby Dumas, and the school that previously shared Wadsworth’s building, the University of Chicago Charter High School-Woodlawn, now has the entire building.



Soon to be ex-teacher wrote 35 weeks 5 days ago

maintenance costs at closed schools

Well of course it's a lie- because that's what CPS does. When will people wake up to the fact that they lie and can't be trusted

close observer wrote 35 weeks 5 days ago

lies, lies, and more lies

Though no surprise, this is outrageous. Rahm just wanted to say that he closed more schools at once than any other mayor, even Bloomberg. Rahm can't even keep his stories straight, a common problem when you LIE. In his Chicago Magazine interview and in Chicagoland, he talks about "failing schools". Did one of his PR people forget to tell him the stated reason for school closings was "underutilization"?

Karma wrote 35 weeks 4 days ago

The lies keep coming

The first two commenters are telling nothing but the truth.

Network Chiefs and principals they are going to push you out too. You cost too much. No matter how much you nod your head in agreement to wrongdoing your turn is coming. It is not just the teacher's they want to eliminate.

The high schools are next on the chopping block. C P S will use any excuse or lie to justify the closures.

They will get rid of the custodial staff and school facilities will be beyond filthy.

The REACH evaluation for the so-called distinguished and proficient teachers won't matter when their rooms smell from body order,dust and dirt are everywhere,there is not enough toilet paper or soap and no one around to make it all go away.

A lot of artwork in public buildings in this country was done under the W P A program funded by the federal government during the first depression. The feds need to take a look at the murals in these closed schools before they are sold to anyone.

How do you justify the elimination of art teachers and the public schools in Chicago contain so much great art and history?

One term mayor and his cronies are leaving this city in a shambles with their lies.

JB wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago

Their Priorities

This mayor and the previous one are more interested in using the schools as a way for their friends to make a huge amounts of money. If they can let the banks, charter school corporations, real estate and construction companies make obscene profits from education funds, then current mayors can receive huge campaign contributions and former mayors can receive multiple payback jobs paying obscene salaries and benefits for doing practically nothing.

Poker Bill Jones wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago

The school closings were

The school closings were designed to punish the teachers union for the strike. Its purpose was also to distract the public from both mayors' failure to get contracts that allow for the removal of poor performers.

Check out economist Eric Hanushek's study that shows the removal of the bottom 10% of teachers (aka, poor performers) would save the US economy $10 trillion (with a T) over the course of a teacher's career. That's the equivalent of a continuous recession.

Again, the school closings were a red herring. They make us forget that the mayor has failed to empower principals to dismiss poor performers while supporting good and great teachers to be even more effective.

CitizensArrest wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago

Hanushek = Shill

The Hanushek study you,reference has been widely excoriated as having no basis in reality and no statistical validity, being based on a set of irrational assumptions. aka propaganda. He actually advocated for 5 to 10 percent removal per year, but made no mention of where we would find enough qualified replacements to mitigate that attrition. His ideas on how to identify those low performers were likewise absurd.

northside wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago


Any what proof do you have that all of these "principals" know who is effective and who is not, just because they made a new evaluation system. Also, principals can make teachers "unsatisfactory". Any teacher that is unsatisfactory, has a remediation period, and if they don't improve...the teacher is dismissed and never to be hired by CPS again. However, why is there this assumption that ALL PRINCIPALS are honest and competent????

Karma wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago

northside is correct

Thank you north side for telling the truth. Many teachers are being labeled unsatisfactory by individuals who in many cases have little to no experience in the public school system, resent veteran teachers,are jealous of teachers who are more skilled then they are and are hateful and vindictive towards teachers who will not play the yes man role. Bullying is not just a problem for students but teachers and staff as well.

Evelyn wrote 35 weeks 3 days ago

School Closings

Schools are supposed to provide a quality education to enable students to attain the necessary skills to enter the adult world to become employed and self-sufficient adults. Something has happened whereby the schools are warehousing kids in old buildings that many kids have opted to drop out as quickly as possible. They are closing schools all over the country because they are not working for this generation. Black students are harmed more than any other race as a result of failing schools. I believe that the failing high schools will be the next group to close. It is time to focus on how to provide a top quality education for all kids, instead of crying about how many folks will not have a job.

Karma wrote 35 weeks 2 days ago

top quality education and too few schools

Teachers want to provide top quality instruction. However, none of this matters when students are not held accountable and parents refuse to take responsibility for the academic success of their children.

Crying about a job lost is not the issue. Teaching is a profession. It takes training, skill,sincerity.humanity, humor,adaptability.etc. It is not for the faint-hearted.

Professionals are needed to educate but are under attack. Just where are these students going to go that have the most serious personal,emotional, social and psychological issues? Will CPS say shape up or ship out? Are charter schools going to enroll students that cannot meet basic standards of conduct and scholarship? I think not.

C P S talks about preparing students for college, career and beyond. That sounds noble but the reality is altogether different. Having self control, dignity, focus, recognition and respect for teacher/ student roles as well as adult/kid roles, intrinsic as well as extrinsic motivation to excel are not 21st century skills. They are the traits of a scholar that begin in the home and were required long before this century.

Colleges will admit incompetent students. How long will that last? Academic probation puts the brakes on this travesty but the loan payment is still due. Do we want to give young people accolades and support for mediocrity or do we want to tell them the truth ? If the parents will not step up then the job is left to teachers. The same teachers who are losing their jobs.

Anonymous wrote 35 weeks 2 days ago

Pofit motive in play? DUH!

They are closing public schools that could have been helped to improve and would surpass the predominantly corrupt replacements, aka charter schools. It is not being done for the sake of improvement, but for the sake of profit and bloated management payrolls and fees taken right off the top. Even with all the advantages that cronies have bought and leveraged for charters, they still underperform regular public schools. If there was true competition on a level playing field, the market would have destroyed the whole bogus charter scam a long time ago. They only survive due to political favoritism.

Anonymous wrote 35 weeks 23 hours ago

school closings

Evelyn, closing the neighborhood school to provide better education is like saying closing the police station will reduce crime. While we focus, as you suggest, on how to provide a quality education, check out the report from the Consortium on Chicago School Research on what makes schools successful.

GO FAMILY wrote 35 weeks 19 hours ago

School Closing For Maintenance, Utilization & Performance

The cost savings is just an estimate for us to get an idea of the redistribution of the funds to be use in the school district needs. For those that are upset, please understand that the city situation has no room for flexibility while operating in the red. We all have to pitch in to get the system in balance and in the green. There is no grace period to fix what was broken, that has past and gone. We all should had acted earlier to prevent the mayor from using measures that were distasteful and he had no choice but to move on correcting the situation of the CPS in the red. I had read all the comments and did not see any recommendation of a solution. My feelings is that we all need to reevaluate ourselves and why we allowed this disaster to happen on our watch.

close observer wrote 35 weeks 19 hours ago


No room for flexibility? Hmmm? Expansion of charters, additions to Payton and Lincoln. over $200 million to close 50 schools, $20 million for SUPES, millions for unnecessary testing...should I continue? Economics is all about "choice" and Rahm and CPS have let us know what their choices are..

Chariot wrote 35 weeks 17 hours ago

What close observer said....

Go Family, you are either a shill for Rahm and the corporate reformers or a blissfully ignorant koolaid drinker. I'm not trying to be rude here, it's just that all the information that you seem to be totally unaware of is readily available, often from CPS itself. Even if CPS numbers were just 'estimates' they are so far off that if CPS were the private sector, the inaccuracies would result in people cleaning out their desks with a security guard standing by to escort them from the premises. As in FIRED.

Go Family wrote 35 weeks 13 hours ago

Chariot - Funds Being Redistributed from School Closing

Once again, I see no solutions given, but negative comments. So what do you all feel would be the right direction on taking on this matter? There is an old saying, "lead, follow or get out of the way". May I point out, that you all had been watching this for over 25 years the city government mismanaging our education system. My family had at least tried to get changes made and did. We know the hardship of being involved in the process of changing policies in the education system by attending meetings on the school LSCs and CAC councils. We did not see a crow of people who were willing to participate in all the meetings like we did. So please, do not cry when changes are made and you were not there to give your points as to what would be the solution to fixing the problems in the education system.

Anonymous wrote 34 weeks 6 days ago

Re: Go Family

Go Family, I'm not sure you asked for solutions. Not to mention your "solutions" involve some sort of personal responsibility and looking at our role in the mismanagement of CPS (which is totally absurd). How about CPS fully sharing their finical data? So that everyone can see what money comes in and what money goes out and where it goes. CPS is so full of spin we all assume their numbers have been doctored to fit their message of the day. The building maintenance costs are just another example of spinning the numbers to fit their needs. When they need school buildings to cost LOTS of money so that they can claim savings and justify closings, schools cost millions to operate. When they need to sell them, all of a sudden the buildings cost 25% of the original costs to maintain. CPS's budget office is just an extension of their PR department and It's only used for propaganda to support whatever initiative is du jour. My solution is to shine a light on the TRUE finances of CPS taking away the ability to spin numbers and drum up fear of deficits and "inflexibility". I guess you are what we should all be looking up to, Go Family, since you are your family have been advocating for the betterment of the district for so long and we've been sitting on our a**es doing nothing...Please, go away and stop telling people who are skeptical to "get out of the way". How about you open your mind and see things for what they are instead.

Anonymous wrote 34 weeks 6 days ago


Many people in this town have come up with far better solutions than either of the two mayors or their hand picked school boards and CPS "leaders". We were and still are ignored and dismissed. Rahm/CPS doesn't care. The CTU put out a list of great idea that would have improved the schools for all Chicago kids but since cronies couldn't profit from those ideas, they were never even considered. CREATE also came out with factr based suggestions. You need to pay attention to all the ordinary people in this town who are fighting city hall and CPS for a better way and have been for years. Get a clue. since you can't lead and have no clue as to who to follow, you are the one who needs to get out of the way.

Go Family wrote 34 weeks 6 days ago

Anonymous One and Two

Thanks for your opinion, we all have them. I look forward to seeing you at the LSC council and board meetings and as well as the Community Action Council meetings. Are any of you people on the council as member as a Community Representative at your local schools? Just asking, stay engage and involve. Look forward to seeing you all there.
Keep pushing to make positive changes. Lord only knows Chicago needs us.

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