Report: 80 Chicago Public Schools could shut down

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A new report determined that Chicago Public Schools can safely close or overhaul as many as 80 schools this year.

The findings came from a panel of eight commissioners hand-picked by schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

The report does not name specific schools that should be closed or consolidated.  It is only a recommendation, not a binding report.  But just the thought of 80 schools having some sort of action taken against them has one education activist concerned.

“Parents should be terrified,” says community organizer Jitu Brown.

Brown reacts to the final report from an advisory committee that finds CPS has the capacity to consolidate approximately 80 schools, and that it should be done in one year or split over two years.

“The district has never demonstrated the capacity to close or transform one school respectfully and effectively,” Brown told WGN.  “So what would make us believe that they can do it for an entire system?”

Committee chair Frank Clark says after four months of contentious meetings with parents and community members, his 8-member panel determined schools should only be closed if students can transfer to a better performing school.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says the report confirms what she has been saying for months — that the district has a utilization problem, meaning CPS has hundreds of under-utilized schools.  In a statement, she says CPS is “making smart and critical investments in our children’s future along with the difficult and necessary decisions.”

But Jitu Brown says CPS is simply following a national trend of trying to privatize schools.

“Schools should not be closed because the district created a policy that drove parents out,” Brown says.  “The district threw a grenade in neighborhood schools and then parents grabbed their babies in an effort to survive and took their children wherever they could.”

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the report outrageous.  Lewis is organizing a march and rally calling for a full moratorium on all school closings.  Lewis wants to hold the rally on March 27, four days before CPS is required by law to release its list of schools that it plans to close.

CPS has issued a preliminary list of 129 schools that could be closed.

Karen Lewis said there’s no way CPS could shut down 13-percent of the district without mass chaos.

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