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Chicago Teachers Union demands moratorium on school closings, charter expansion

The Chicago Teachers Union voted unanimously at its October 31, 2012 House of Delegates meeting to demand that the Chicago Board of Education stop all school closings and charter expansions this year, and that a complete study be made of the decade-long history of the activities in Chicago. The majority of the union's more than 800 delegates were present and voting at the time the motion was made by the union's executive board, following reports to the delegates by the officers, all of whom reported on their experiences with the closings during the previous decade.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaking to the more than 1,000 teachers, friends and political leaders at the union's LEAD dinner on October 26, 2012. The union has been building widespread community and political support for the moratorium on school closings (other changes) and charter expansion in Chicago. Substance photo by Kati Gilson. The union's decision came at the same time that Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett released the guidelines that CPS will supposedly be following this year in examining the closings and other actions.

THE CTU PRESS RELEASE FOLLOWS:

Public School Educators Call for Moratorium on School Closings and other arbitrary CPS “School Actions” this Year

CHICAGO – Leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) House of Delegates (HOD) voted unanimously to support the push for a moratorium on all school closings, phase-outs, restarts and turnarounds this year. The decision came about an hour after the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released on Wednesday a preview of the criteria for which it will shut down schools throughout the city.

Teachers, paraprofessionals, clinicians and other school employees have indicated they will advocate side-by-side with parents and community-based organizations to protect public schools from harmful school reform policies. Hundreds of protestors will rally at City Hall Friday afternoon in the first of a series of public protests against school closings. Union leaders believe schools are targeted for their real estate value rather than as a genuine effort by the district to help under-resourced schools best serve their student populations.

The HOD resolution read: “Be it resolved that the Chicago Teachers Union support a call for a moratorium on all school closings, phase-outs, restarts and turnarounds and actively oppose any school actions that involve these draconian methods. This moratorium should remain in effect until such time as: CPS has completed and published a study done by an independent researcher on the impact of the school actions on the students, community, and affected personnel; CPS has held public hearings based on the study findings; CPS has published a clearly delineated set of criteria for school actions, and left those criteria in place for at least two years; and, CPS has designed and implemented a legitimate process in which community, parent, and union members make decisions about how to best improve our schools.”

Incidentally, more than 42,000 students have been directly impacted by CPS School Actions since 2001. Black students represented 88 percent of students affected. Schools that are over 99 percent students of color have been the primary target of CPS school actions – representing over 80 percent of all affected schools. Black communities have been hit the hardest – 3-out-of-every-4 affected schools were economically poor and intensely segregated African American schools.

CTU President Karen GJ Lewis said of the, “CPS’ school actions appear to be an arbitrary real estate plan and not a school improvement plan that will benefit our students. We have heard the District plans to open 60 new charter operations and it has to get the buildings from somewhere. School closings have a significant negative impact on student learning. These closings destabilize neighborhoods and lead to the layoffs and firing of experienced educators.

“We join parents, community organizations and clergy in asking the Board and the mayor to put in place a moratorium on these school actions until CPS includes parents, community and public school educators in the decision-making process.”

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