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.


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CaptureParents and teachers held a rally Thursday to protest the elimination of all art programming at Burley Elementary School.

They also spoke out against cuts to English, reading, technology and physical education at the Chicago school.

Burley, located at 1630 W. Barry Ave., is one of the city’s top-scoring neighborhood schools.  Protesters said that’s why they can’t understand the changes.

CPS has only released the details of individual school budget cuts to principals.

But, the education advocacy group Raise Your Hand estimates $45 million in budget cuts have been made so far.

On a day that is usually pegged as the best day of the year, the last day of school and the official start of their summer,  people inside and outside of dozens of CPS schools were filled with emotions and flooding with tears today.

They are saying goodbyes to their schools and their teachers for the last time.

The Ramos family staged a 3 hour sit-in inside Lafayette school protesting its closure.  Police allegedly threatened one family with arrests.

“We hoped to accomplish to embarrass the mayor,” said Rousemary Vega, a parent at the school.  “He’s affecting families to the point that we are desperate enough to do whatever it takes.”

Desperate because Lafayette school closed today along with 27 other Chicago public schools rang  their school bells for the last time. It was all part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s grand plan to close and consolidate to improve Chicago Public Schools overall, the CEO contends.


In a statement today, Barbara Byrd-Bennett said, “As we end this school year, it is time for us as a city to begin the work of creating a deep and lasting change in our schools to ensure a better life for our children, a better Chicago workforce and a better future for our city.”

Others were equally as distraught over the closing of their school today.

With tears streaming down her face, 6th grader Fiona Grahn said, “I don’t want this school to close.  I’ve been here since 1st grade.”

Rosemary Maurello, was a teacher at Lafayette for 19 years.  “It’s hard not to cry,” she said.  “You get letters from kids who say, ‘We’ll miss you.’  They ask, ‘Do you get to go too?’ I can’t even answer that question. You don’t even know if you will see them.”

Protestors claim they will keep fighting. They are not giving up hope yet that some closed schools could remain open in the end.



The final bell will ring today at 28 Chicago Public Schools that are scheduled to permanently close.

They will shut down after students leave today, barring any last minute court intervention from at least three lawsuits.

Lawmakers in Springfield could also step in, but that’s not expected to happen.

The board of education voted in May to close 49 elementary schools and a high school program.

The remaining schools on the list will close Monday.

After months of arguing and anguish, the closing of 50 Chicago Public Schools will begin Wednesday.

It stood out on the list of Chicago public schools slated to close. Calhoun North Elementary in East Garfield Park had been recognized as a high-performing school that put up some of the best math scores in the city. On Wednesday, the school will close not for the year, but for good.

“I believe that the district has historically kind of lived on a charge card, I guess,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett told a crowd gathered Tuesday night at a Chicago Tribune event in the loop. “We just weren’t paying careful attention to finances, which is one of the reasons we’re in the situation we’re in now.”

Outside the venue, protesters armed with toilet paper yet again voiced their anger over the closing of 50 schools.

At another event earlier in the day, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, had blasted the mayoral advisors who helped reshape the troubled district as a bunch of “rich white people” who know little about the needs of inner-city kids.

“We’re creating more and more problems when you’re closing schools,” Lewis said. “You’re changing more curriculum, you’re changing evaluation, you’re doing this, now you’re changing the budget.  I mean, it’s just so much chaos and I have to understand on some level, why do we continue to put our schools into chaos?”

Not all of the schools will close their doors Wednesday. The remainder of the schools will close Monday.

A Friday night, the mayor’s out of the country, top public schools’ brass are unavailable, and hundreds of Chicago teachers and support staff are suddenly, if not unexpectedly, out of work.

311 teachers without tenure will be fired, along with over 200 who don’t meet the rating of satisfactory. Also cut are 130 paraprofessionals and about 180 bus aides, part-time and seasonal workers.

Said Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis, “this announcement comes as far as I’m concerned to try to spread fear and panic and chaos on a Friday night.”

Chicago Public Schools insists that was not the intent. Nor is it the result. In fact, the silence over these layoffs is deafening. No protests, like the ones we’ve been seeing for months; not even from the teachers union, which claims it hasn’t had time to react.

“We just got this information after you all did,” said Lewis.

School officials say that is not the case. They say their general counsel reached out to the union boss with the bad news around midday today.

CPS declined our requests for on-camera interviews, but in a statement, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett called these layoffs part of a process that will give thousands of Chicago children a better, safer education this fall.

Said Byrd-Bennett, their education will include “safe passage, AC, access to updated technologies, science, computer and media labs, all of which will be made possible by redirecting resources from these underutilized schools as part of the process we created in partnership with the CTU in our joint contract agreement.”

The teacher’s union insists that the estimated number of 855 positions to be cut can’t be real, or even known.

“If you’re gonna lay off all these people, then you are talking about having 45, 50 kids in a class,” said Lewis. “I’m not believing that’s going to happen.”

CPS reminds us this is about plugging a billion-dollar budget hole.

The layoffs don’t stop at the schools. About 100 positions will be cut at CPS headquarters, for a savings of about $52 million.

More than 650 Chicago Public School employees will be laid-off because of the record number of upcoming school closures.

It’s a result of CPS’s decision to shut down 49 elementary schools and one high school program.

663 employees, including teachers, teaching assistants and bus aides, were notified Friday they will be let go.

And, this may not be the end of the bad news. Principals are still finalizing their staffing plans, and that could mean more layoffs.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called Friday’s announcement premature and disingenuous.

Following this announcement, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett released the following statement:

“Consolidating underutilized schools will give children an opportunity to access a safe, higher-quality, 21st-century education with all of the investments that parents, principals, teachers and we agree children need…all of which will be made possible by redirecting resources from these underutilized schools as part of the process we created in partnership with the teacher’s union in our joint contract agreement.”

Chicago Public Schools is cutting more than $52 million dollars from its central office, operations and administration budgets. cpswalkkidtoschool

100 office positions will be eliminated.

CPS officials say they are looking to reduce the impact on classrooms, as they work to close a $1 billion dollar deficit in the next fiscal year.

More cuts from outside the classroom will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Chicago Teachers Union is predicting that the school district’s money problems will mean hundreds of layoffs. ctu

The union’s vice president says up to 350 teachers could lose their jobs just from the upcoming school closings.

But more job cuts could come after state lawmakers failed to extend the CPS’ break on pensions.

School officials say they don’t know how many teachers will be let go until principals finalize their budgets.

They say classroom sizes will not go up, if layoffs happen.

The Chicago Teachers Union made their argument in court Wednesday, over the city’s decision to close 50 schools.

Unlike two federal lawsuits filed by parents that among other things allege discrimination, CTU’s lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court argues that Chicago Public Schools did not follow proper procedure in the 10 closures.

“The law bars them from closing a school where the hearing officer goes through the process to issue a ruling and determines the school closing plan does not comply with the district’s own guidelines,” argued CTU attorney Robert Bloch. “The board is not permitted to close that school then in that school year.”

They also accused the board of breaking state law by ignoring recommendations made by a special panel made-up of former state and federal judges.

Union representatives have reached out to State lawmakers, asking for a moratorium on the closures.

A handful of dedicated parents, teachers and students gathered in Millennium Park today to put forth one final push to stop Chicago Public Schools from closing.

They say will go to the mayor and state lawmakers, hoping to sway Springfield into voting for Senate Bill 1571 by Friday, which would put a moratorium on the closings for next year.

Last week, Chicago’s school board voted to close 49 schools next year, sparing five from the original list.

The group wants every school and program to stay open.

What are the chances of Senate Bill 1571 being passed?   Not good.  It must still get through committee, where it’s been since February and come up for a full vote by Friday.