Byrd-Bennett, CPS officials, providing false information to the public in claim that school system has dropped '145,000 students' since the year 2000
Although Chicago Public Schools officials have been selectively eliminating important student data, budget information, and many actions of the Board of Education from the Board's website (www.cps.edu) since Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed Barbara Byrd Bennett as the latest "Chief Executive Officer" of the nation's third largest school system, the latest claim by CPS regarding the drop in student membership since 2000 is simply false. CPS has refused to provide a source for the claim, widely reported in the press on the morning of December 5, 2012.
According to Chicago Public Schools reports, on September 30, 2000, Chicago Public Schools had at total of 435,470 students, up from a total of 431,750 students the previous year. That information was provided by CPS to the general public in an annual report entitled "Student Racial/Ethnic Survey" produced by the CPS Office of Accountability, Department of Compliance.
If the claim made by CPS in the release of the "underutilization" list that is making headline on December 5, 2012 be true, and CPS today has 145,000 fewer students, then there are only 290,000 students in Chicago's public schools this school year. Yet depending upon which data set is cited, CPS is claiming that the school system has between 400,000 and 410,000 student this school year, roughly 25,000 - 35,000 fewer than at the beginning of the 21st Century.
CPS officials have not returned a Substance phone call to the Office of Communications asking for the source of the CPS claim that the system has lost 145,000 students.
One of the main reasons given by Barbara Byrd-Bennett for her request to the Illinois General Assembly for a change in the deadline for publishing this year's list of proposed school closings was that the public had "lost trust" in CPS officials. As a result of that, she was permitted, without public discussion, to appoint a "Commission" to hold public hearings on the proposed closings and to ignore the December 1, 2012 deadline for providing the public with a list. The deadline was extended to March 31, 2013 for this year's list, which critics have long called the "Hit List."
But if trust were anywhere on the minds of the top officials at CPS, it was not in evidence when CPS released the dramatic list claiming to show where schools were "underutilized" on December 4, 2012. Instead of holding a press conference, CPS, as usual, released the list electronically to certain media and not to others (Substance is routinely denied these documents, for the first time in CPS history; under Paul Vallas, Arne Duncan, Ron Huberman, and Terry Mazany CPS officials held press conferences and CPS press releases and other information were released to Substance along with their release to other media. Since Rahm Emanuel's Board of Education was appointed in May 2011, that practice had ceased, and CPS has not held a press conference since the new board took office and held its first meeting in June 2011. During contract negotiations CPS was forced to hold press conferences, but once the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 was over, that ended, too. The December 4 information was selectively provided to certain reporters and media and not to others. CPS has refused to answer Substance questions about the list on December 5, 2012.
"Chicago has lost approximately 145,000 school-age children between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, CPS said Tuesday, though it gained children in pockets on the Far Northwest Side, edges of the Southwest Side, and along the lakefront" according to the December 5 report in the Sun-Times. Because CPS officials are cited anonymously and Byrd Bennett herself refuses to hold general press conferences, no reporter was able to ask why there is such a great discrepancy between what "CPS" claims to be census data on children in Chicago and the small loss of public school children during the same period. Since Byrd-Bennett became CEO, CPS has also again purged its top executive ranks. The main person in charge of demographics for more than a decade, James Dispensa, has been removed from that work and replaced with Byrd Bennett appointees who have almost no knowledge of Chicago schools. Others who are among the "disappeared" in the CPS hierarchy today include former Portfolio Chief Oliver Sicat and Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley. CPS has not explained where any of these people went, or why their knowledge, thin as it may be, is no longer useful in the public debate over "underutilization" and other major issues.
Because State Senator Iris Martinez joined with Byrd Bennett on orders from Mayor Rahm Emanuel to request the four month extension of the deadline, the Illinois General Assembly approved the change by a large majority in both houses (the Senate passed the extension unanimously; the House by a majority). Governor Pat Quinn signed the law making the extension a fact just prior to the December 1 deadline.