CPS School Closings: State Lawmakers Call For Moratorium, District Changes Funding Formula

The Illinois state legislature's Latino and Black caucuses on Monday warned against the Chicago Public Schools' plan to close dozens of its schools -- and vowed to push for a moratorium on such closures.

State Rep. Ken Dunkin, chairman of the legislature's Black Caucus, said Monday that the General Assembly is "not gonna sit back and say, ‘OK, Mayor Rahm Emanuel do what you want to do, how you want to do it, when you want to do it at our expense?'" the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

"There is no precedent for doing this level of overhaul of 24,000 students -- in the next few months? It just doesn't add up," Dunkin added, according to ABC Chicago.

The lawmakers plan to introduce a bill next week that would institute a moratorium against CPS closing schools beginning in the 2013-2014 school year, state Sen. William Delgado, a Chicago Democrat, told the Chicago Tribune. Delgado is the chair of the Senate education committee and the bill has the support of the Chicago Teachers Union.

In response to the lawmakers' push, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett conceded that the process of closing schools "is very emotional" but claimed that the closures will allow the district to redirect resources to better serve the district's students, according to ABC.

Lawmakers are hoping to see a draft of the district's 10-year facilities master plan -- which is due in May -- prior to the March 31 finalization of its school closure list, but Becky Carroll, CPS chief communications officer dismissed that call and stated that the facilities plan "has nothing to do with addressing the fact that our schools are severely underutilized," the Sun-Times reports.

Last week, the Commission on School Utilization stated the district has the capacity to safely consolidate 80 schools over the next two years. CPS previously released a preliminary list of 129 of the district's schools flagged as "underutilized" that are up for closure, a group that disproportionately impacts schools on the city's west and south sides. The district has never before closed more than 11 schools in one year.

Per a Chicago Sun-Times analysis, nine of every 10 students potentially impacted by the closures are African American, while just 41.7 percent of CPS students are black districtwide. Put differently, as the Daily Kos pointed out Monday, the closures would mean the razing of at least 1.5 million square feet of classroom space, the overwhelming majority of which is located in majority black neighborhoods.

Once CPS releases its final list of school closures by March 31, that list would then head to the Illinois state legislature for approval. The closures would then go into effect in June.

In related news, CPS announced Monday that they are instituting a new funding formula for schools, basing funding not on the number of staff members recommended per school, but instead, switching to a per-pupil model, Chicago Catalyst reports. The new formula skews additional funding toward early education and high school-aged students.



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