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CPS routinely violating Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Despite recent changes in the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that require more disclosure of documents produced by public bodies to the public upon request, since Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in January 2009, the Huberman administration has reduced public access to key documents — while at the same time claiming that its administration was committed to what it calls "transparency."

According to the "Frequently Asked Questions" published in January 2010 by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Chicago Public Schools is required to publicly post information about its Freedom of Information provisions.

"To whom do I submit a FOIA request?

"FOIA requests should be submitted to the public body’s designated FOIA officer. Every public body must prominently display at its office and make available certain information, including the name(s) of its FOIA officer(s). In addition, the public body must display and make available:

-- Information on how to submit a FOIA; and

-- A brief description of the office, including its purpose, budget and number of employees.

Any public body that has a website must also post this information on that website.

How do I know who within a public body should receive my FOIA request?

Each public body must prominently display and make available upon request a directory designating the FOIA officer(s) for that body and the address where FOIA requests should be sent. This information must also be posted on the public body’s website, if it has one."

The Huberman administration's refusal to comply with the Illinois Freedom of Information Act, while it simultaneously claims it is starting a new age of "transparency," may be viewed by some as simply the latest iteration of the long-standing reputation for hypocrisy earned during his public career by Ron Huberman. But since January 1, 2010, as Huberman has been claiming that CPS faces an unprecedented "deficit," the blatant violations of the FOIA has also been poised to cost the city money.

According to the Attorney General's January 4, 2010, FAQ memo:

What is the incentive for a public body to respond to my request within 5 business days (or 10 business days if extended)?

Aside from the potential that a court ultimately could impose a civil penalty of between $2,500 and $5,000 per violation, public bodies have an additional incentive to respond within the time limits set forth. In the event a public body fails to respond within 5 business days, it cannot charge for reproduction costs at a later time or treat the request as unduly burdensome.

Dozens of requests under the FOIA to CPS officials are being stalled or denied at this time. Most recently, Substance was told that a request for an accurate and complete copy of the CPS "Position File" (the computer list of all those who work full or part-time for CPS) was not available. Substance has been getting the Position File from CPS for more than 20 years, but since the beginning of the Huberman administration, many of the most important data files at CPS have been corrupted, apparently on orders from Huberman himself. At the beginning of the summer of 2010, Huberman announced that CPS was going to publish the "Position File" at the CPS website (www.cps.edu). But what CPS published (which is called the "Position Roster") was actually an underhanded way of attacking employee unions. The Huberman "Position Roster" included the union to which each worker belonged (if any), but eliminated most of the major budget and employee information that had traditionally been on the Position File.

The Position File is not the only major data base being altered illegally by Ron Huberman and his aides. The long-term attack on what is called "transparency" includes most of the major lists of CPS. At the present time, the Huberman administration can't even provide the public with a complete and accurate list of all of the schools operated within "Chicago Public Schools." No such current list exists on the CPS website, and the list published as part of the advertisement known as the CPS calendar is inaccurate. 



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