Reporting Craig Dellimore
CHICAGO (CBS) – The head of the Chicago Public School system said Friday that the District needs more time to decide how many schools might have to close next school year, and to get the public involved in making the decisions.
But the Chicago Teachers Union said if the district can’t meet the state-mandated Dec. 1 deadline to list the schools targeted for closure or consolidation, then no schools should be closed next year.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the Dec. 1 deadline is too soon to come up with a list of school closures while getting input from the community.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
She said she’ll ask state lawmakers to extend the deadline until March 31 to allow an independent school action commission to get the community involved in a plan to close or consolidate under-performing and low-enrollment schools.
“When you make a decision to close a school, and the community does not have information, may not understand why, may have misinformation around utilization; then it’s far more painful,” Byrd-Bennett said. “I believe, and have seen played out, when people have facts, when the information is placed before them in a transparent way; they at least have the foundation to understand why particular positions may be presented to them.”
She acknowledged, in the past, the district has not sought enough public input on school closing plans.
“The Chicago Public Schools does not have a history of engaging the people most impacted by decisions,” she said. “I believe that – and having done this before in other places – that the up-front community engagement, the up-front transparency necessary, and learning community – where there are facts and figures that we don’t know as we sit in [CPS headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.] is an important part of the process for me.”
But CTU President Karen Lewis said the district should be forced to adhere to the existing deadline for coming up with a list of potential school closings.
“We appreciate the CEO recognizes the CPS’ process around school closings is extraordinarily flawed,” Lewis said in a written statement. “Given today’s assertion that CPS needs more time to unveil their newest community targets, the only announcement that makes sense on December 1st is ‘There will be no school closings this year.’ We have called for a moratorium on all school actions until we have an analysis of the devastating impact these actions have on our students and neighborhoods.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel defended Byrd-Bennett’s decision to ask for more time to come up with a list of schools to close
“Barbara Byrd-Bennett and CPS are taking the responsible course of action by assembling this independent commission and ensuring that parents and community members are engaged openly from day one in this decision-making process,” he said in a written statement.
Byrd-Bennett is the guest on this weekend’s “At Issue” program, which airs Sunday at 9:30 p.m.