CFL News
December 01, 2011

Chicago Teachers Union blasts new list of school closures and the parceling out of elementary students to other schools

President Lewis: “CPS has 0% success rate in improving city high schools”

Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis criticized the Chicago Public Schools (CPS)  list of schools targeted for closures and other school actions by pointing out that not only does the policy do little to improve student achievement, but the District has a poor record of improving academic achievement among the city’s most vulnerable students.  The 18 schools targeted are predominantly African-American and are located on the South and West Sides.

Nearly 10,000 students and hundreds of educators are impacted by school actions.

“School closings, consolidations, turnarounds and other similar experiments do not work and do little to improve student achievement,” said Lewis. “Today’s ‘school actions’ are the same old, ineffective, policies couched in new and exciting public relations boosting language; however, the outcomes will remain the same. Until this administration addresses the structural inequity in our schools and deals with poverty and other social impediments to learning, we’ll be right back at this place again next year.”

She pointed out that CPS has a poor track record of improving high schools citing its “zero percent success rate,” and also said the administrators downtown are out of touch with public safety and mobility issues that arise when high schools are closed. “What happens to our children when they are parceled out to other neighborhoods? Instead of trying to solve the problem and fix our failing schools, the Board of Education is simply moving it around--shuffling children from one under-resourced school to another.”

Lewis also blasted CPS’ ever-changing probation criteria that have put nearly 300 schools in jeopardy of school actions and have rendered their Local School Councils inoperable.  “When Paul Vallas was the CEO there were 100 schools put on probation. We now have 253 schools on probation. What does that tell us about the policies that have been used from Vallas’ time? You’d think over this time we’d have seen improvements by now.  Either the Board has changed the criteria for what probation means or it has ulterior motives for putting schools on probation in the first place.”

“Mr. Brizard has said school closings are necessary because of “toxic” school environments but that’s a value judgment,” she explained. “Is the school ‘toxic’ because the principal is ineffective; is it toxic because leadership does not welcome and invite parents and community into the school; is it toxic because there are no libraries; is it toxic because the surrounding community is filled with poverty, violence and apathy? There is no one quick-fix remedy for schools in crisis. Prescribing the same solution to 18 different campuses would be akin to a doctor prescribing the same dose of medicine to every single patient under his/her  care.  Why not give these schools the comprehensive plan and resources they need before shutting them down and destabilizing a community.”

In response to the school actions,  CTU will conduct a teach-in on school actions on Saturday, December 3 at 10 a.m. at   King College Prep High School, 4445 S. Drexel. Labor leaders, community activists, and others will also present an oral history of CPS school closings, consolidations and turnarounds and illustrate its impact on impoverished communities and conduct workshops on how to save troubled schools.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools and, by extension, the students and families they serve. CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information visit CTU’s website at www.ctunet.com.

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