2013 Chicago Hit List begins to emerge, and expansion of charter schools becomes more assured... Byrd Bennett announces no high schools to be closed in the face of her fictitious 'underutilization crisis'
Only three days after the first report from the "Commission..." she established refused to provide a list of those supposedly "underutilized" public schools to be closed, Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer has told the Chicago Tribune that she will follow the advice of the Commission and not close any of the city's high schools. Although the announcement is viewed as a reprieve by many, some of the city's schools have become K-12 (kindergarten through high school) buildings, and it is still not clear whether those, too are included.
Neither the Tribune nor the Sun-Times, the city's other daily newspaper, reported that on Saturday, January 12, the legally established task force on school closings and consolidations held a hearing on the city's west side. Byrd-Bennett worked, including using lies, to undermine the Task Force and the law that required a December 1 announcement of the annual Hit List and a January 1 announcement of a preliminary ten-year facilities plan. The Commission was facilitated when State Senator Iris Martinez broke with her past practice and supported Byrd-Bennett (and, reportedly, behind the scenes the machinations of Mayor Rahm Emanuel). In Springfield, Martinez, who had helped push through the original law, supported the extension of time, which in effect allowed Byrd Bennett to extend the time for the publication of the Hit List until after elementary families had no time to apply for admission to the city's selective enrollment high schools, forcing those remaining in the to-be-closed schools to go to the city's charter schools if they were not willing to go to the general high schools. In that, too, many critics, including this reporter, saw purpose, since the objective of the administration of Rahm Emanuel (and the reason Byrd Bennett was brought to Chicago from Detroit) is to privatize and destroy the city's real public schools and replace them with private charter schools.
Reporters across Chicago were informed of the Task Force meeting.
THE JANUARY 14, 2013 TRIBUNE ARTICLE APPEARED ON LINE LATE ON JANUARY 13:
CPS chief agrees that high schools shouldn't be closed. By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah, Chicago Tribune reporter. 8:26 p.m. CST, January 13, 2013
Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett agrees with a panel on school closings that high schools should be off the table as the district prepares to shut down a large number of buildings, a CPS spokeswoman said.
Byrd-Bennett's official response to the preliminary report of the Commission on School Utilization could come as soon as this week, and with her response, the district also is expected to a release a narrower list of underenrolled schools that could be targeted.
Speculation on which schools will be closed has been worrying parents and community groups since the district in December said it was working from a list of 330 schools that are underenrolled. Far fewer schools are expected to be shut down. Sources in September said Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration was looking at shuttering 80 to 120 schools.
Byrd-Bennett "felt very aligned and comfortable" with the commission's recommendation not to close high schools because it could force students to cross gang boundaries or face rival gangs in new buildings, as well as with the panel's suggestion that the best-performing "Level 1" schools be spared even if they are underenrolled, district spokeswoman Becky Carroll said.
After winning a four-month extension from the state Legislature on the deadline for releasing a list of school closings, CPS has to release a final list of school closings by March 31. The commission will issue its final recommendations earlier that month.
The commission held several community hearings on school closings at the end of last year, and CPS officials will begin a round of at least 28 hearings Jan. 28.
Commission members will speak with local school councils of targeted schools as well as community action councils, neighborhood groups that focus on schools. When a final list of school closings is released at the end of March, three hearings will be held for each school on the list.
"It is critical that the community has the chance to give us their feedback on individual schools, and we want to provide them with that opportunity," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.
The Chicago Teachers Union is against school closings and has called for a moratorium until the policy can be further studied. On Friday union President Karen Lewis said, though, she at least appreciated the discussions that were leading to the list gradually being defined.
"This is a bad policy that destroys communities," Lewis said. "But if you're going to consolidate schools for underenrollment, there's a better way to do that. There's stuff you really need to include like having staff following children to their new schools so children don't feel abandoned."