The Chicago school closings of 2013 remain controversial.
On June 23, the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, a bi-partisan task force consisting of members from both houses in the Illinois Assembly, as well as representation from Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Teacher's Union and Chicago Principals and Administrators Association released its annual report. In this report, the CEFTF found eight things CPS did wrong while closing 49 schools following the 2012-2013 school year. Here's what the task force found:
1) The school closings were finalized almost six months after the legal deadline
The CPS was supposed to finalize school closings on December 1, 2012, but instead waited until late May 2013 to do so. Families affected by the closings had little time to plan for the upcoming school year, including missing the deadline to apply to Magnet and selective enrollment schools.
2) African American and vulnerable students were most affected by the closings
90 percent of the students affected by the closings were African American, while 2,600 disabled students and 2,000 special education students were affected.
3) CPS ignored research about the negative effects of school closings
By closing 49 schools, CPS is increasing class sizes at other schools. Researchers argue smaller class sizes lead to better grades for low-income elementary school students. Additionally, the CPS has not released an analysis of class sizes both before and after the closings.
Walter Payton Preperatory High School, located at 1034 N. Wells Street, is an example of one of Chicago ten selective enrollment schools.
4) CPS ignored the advice of the required independent hearing officers
CPS hired Independent Hearing Officers, which are required by law, to preside over its 2013 School Actions meeting, yet rejected the officers' advice against the school closings.
5) The publicized transition plan was insufficient to guide students and parents through the closing process, and the more detailed plan was never released to the public
CPS was required by law to release "transition plans" to help guide students and parents through the transition to a new school, yet the plans released to parents were insufficient. Over the summer, CPS created more detailed plans, but these were never released to the public.
6) CPS has not evaluated the effects of the school closings on its students
Since the school closings, CPS has not studied the academic or psychological effects of the school closings on its students. In March 2014, CPS board members received a mid-year report, but this has not been released to the public.
Elihu Yale Elementary School, located at 7025 S. Princeton Avenue, is one of the 49 schools CPS decided to close after the 2012-2013 school year.
7) CPS has not reported the financial effects of school closings
Due to the closings, CPS added 43 schools to its inventory of vacant buildings, and the cost of security and maintenance of these buildings is unknown. Additionally, CPS tripled its budget in 2013 to upgrade welcoming schools, while cutting $68 million from individual schools' budgets following the closings.
8) The cost of the school closings was more than three times higher than expected
The contract of emptying and boarding the buildings cost $30.9 million. The projected cost originally was $8.9 million.
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