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Illinois judge rules that CPS can close schools even when a hearing officer rules 'No'

Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Allen ruled on July 31 that the Chicago Board of Education has the right to close schools even if a hearing officer finds that the schools shouldn't closed. The ruling, in a lawsuit brought in state court on behalf of ten schools, ends one of two lawsuits brought against CPS since the May 22 vote of the Board to close 49 of the city's real public schools and radically change (through "turnaround" and "co-location") a dozen others.

A federal lawsuit brought on behalf of children with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is still pending. (See articles in substancenews.net by Susan Zupan for details).

Judge Allen's ruling held that CPS has the power to ignore the opinions of hearings officers if it so chooses, even if the hearing officers had been appointed by CPS.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis reacted when hearing about the court ruling, according to a union press release issued on July 31 2013:

CHICAGO – Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis reacted to today’s ruling by a Cook County judge to deny the request by parents to keep 10 Chicago public elementary schools open:

“Today’s ruling is unfortunate because it allows for the radical experiment that is being conducted on a great number of Chicago’s children by the mayor’s office and the Board of Education to continue,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “Sadly, we can always count on CPS to use vagueness in the law to protect its actions in disenfranchising children and families,” Lewis said. “If the law isn’t clear, CPS will find that loophole and exploit it—to the detriment of the children and families it should trying to protect.

“The district wrote the rules regarding the power given to the hearing officers, and when the officers’ decisions weren’t to their liking, CPS broke its own rules in overturning those decisions and voting to close 50 schools. Under the Illinois School Code, the officers’ ruling should have been final,” Lewis added. ”This unfortunate ruling basically upheld CPS going back on its own word and it does an injustice to the parents of these students.”

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