Story Summary

CPS officials close dozens of schools, lay off thousands

The board of education voted to shut down dozens of Chicago Public Schools. It’s the largest closure in U.S. history.

The board  voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program.

CPS also laid off more than 2,000 employees.

The district is facing a $1 billion budget deficit this year.


Story Timeline
Previous Next
This story has 10 updates

Having closed a record 50 schools, Mayor Emanuel is unveiling a building boom at those still standing.

The mayor and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett sat down with WGN’s Randi Belisomo today to discuss it.

They toured Chicago Vocational Career Academy on the South Side which is slated for big improvements.

The school is getting new science and computer labs.

CPS’s 10-year-old facilities master plan will spread $90 million in construction across the district.

The mayor says it’ll make kids college ready.

A march and boycott in Chicago Wednesday was planned to coincide with the march in Washington, D.C. and similar education boycotts in 25 other cities across the country.

Hundreds of parents, students and staff protested outside CPS headquarters and then marched to City Hall.

Board members are voting on a $5.5 billion budget which includes massive cuts and layoffs at many schools.

Grandmother Irene Robinson said, “How can Rahm Emanuel and the Board of Education tell us what’s best for our schools and our children and they come in here destroying our neighborhood.”


Parrish Brown, a senior at Dyett High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood said, “I’m not really learning anything in my school because we don’t have any AP classes, no honor classes and I’m not getting a good quality education.  I’m not learning anything.”

CPS Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issued a statement this morning saying in part … “Adults need to set the example for our children and advocate that nothing matters more than their education. Removing children from the classroom for even one day is unacceptable. Our students belong in the classroom with their teachers getting the instruction they need to be on a path to a successful and bright future.”

The new school year is being disrupted as civil rights activists call for boycotts here in Chicago and across the nation.

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, a coalition of groups is organizing protests in 25 cities against school budget cuts and closings.

Here in Chicago the issue of closings remains a hot topic, with nearly 50 schools not opening for the new year.

12,000 mostly minority students are affected.

A demonstration and march is planned from CPS headquarters to City Hall along with the boycott.

Mayor Emanuel pleaded with parents not to hold their children out of school.

He says the boycott reduces the students to pawns in a political battle that the courts have already ruled on.

On the same day parents and students are protesting, the school board will vote on its $5.58 billion budget.

It calls for program and staffing cuts in most schools to close a billion dollar shortfall.

With 49 Chicago Public Schools now closed, the big question is: What to do with them?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has created a committee that will look at options for the empty buildings.

The committee includes aldermen, community development experts and others.

The chair of the group Wilbur Milhouse talked to WGN.

Chicago Public School students return to the classroom Monday but a group of activists is calling for a boycott just two days later, accusing CPS of discriminating against low-income minority students.

About 50 members of the Parents 4 Teachers gathered outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at city hall Thursday announcing plans for the one-day citywide “Education is a Human Right” boycott scheduled for next Wednesday.

The group is asking students, parents and supporters to attend a rally outside CPS headquarters during the Board of Education’s meeting that day.

The group is part of Journey for Justice, a national committee that is organizing events in other cities around the country to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which is Wednesday.

The activists say the closing of 49 elementary schools and a high school program, mostly on the city’s West and South Sides, is unfair to students.

CPS released a statement saying “we can’t cut our way out of this crisis and need meaningful pension reform.

On Wednesday, we hope all CPS students will be in their classroom.”

The men and women who will help protect Chicago Public School students as they walk to their new schools, thanks to historic school closings, are receiving their training.

About 250 people are attending the second day of “Safe Passage” training at the Lindblom Math and Science Academy at 61st and Wolcott.

They are participating in activities, practicing scenarios, and listening to guest speakers.

One drill involved building little towers out of newspapers, and then placing eggs on top. The eggs represent the kids.

“We have to put an importance on communication with the school staff, the police and everybody. So, cause shootings happen. It happens,” said Renard Williams, a “Safe Passage” worker.

Another group of people begin Monday, and training will take place throughout the school year.

600 “Safe Passage” workers will be ready to go on the first day of school, which is August 26th.

WGN News Writer C. Hayes published this report.

School closings in Chicago will go ahead as planned as a federal judge denies a request to stop them.

Parents filed lawsuits backed by the Chicago Teachers Union to stop the closings.

They argued shutting-down 50 schools unfairly affected minority and special education students.

However, the judge denied their request for a preliminary injunction to halt the closings.

An attorney for the parents will review the judge’s ruling before determining the next course of action.

Chicago Public School students begin class in 10 days.

The Chicago Public School system is asking for new charter schools to be created in the next two years.

Critics say it’s an odd request, since the school system just closed dozens of schools; but this morning, school CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told WGN-TV, most of the newly closed schools were half-empty, while the new charter schools would open in neighborhoods where schools are overcrowded.

She said charter schools will have to succeed to survive; several charter schools were closed in the past school year because they didn’t meet CPS’ academic expectations.

A new report suggests funding cuts to the classroom will exceed CPS estimates.

The group Raise your Hand calculates total cuts at $162 million dollars.

That’s much higher than the $68 million announced by district officials last week.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll stressed that the district looked only at spending for instruction when it said the loss in the classroom will be $68 million.

Total budget gains and losses at schools also factor in operational costs and differences in federal money that schools received for poverty or special education students.

Raise Your Hand accuses CPS of making cuts to redistribute money to areas it wants to prioritize, rather than to balance the budget.

A Cook County judge has denied a motion to stop Chicago Public Schools from closing 10 of the 49 elementary schools slated for closure.

The Chicago Teachers Union filed a lawsuit in May, claiming CPS ignored independent hearing officers recommendations to keep the schools open.

But a judge ruled the board was not legally obligated to follow those recommendations.

A lawyer for the CTU says he’s considering the next steps.

CTU President Karen Lewis released a statement which says, in part:

“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. Sadly, we can always count on CPS to use vagueness in the law to protect its actions in disenfranchising children and families. 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.”

School begins August 26.