SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — An Illinois House committee has endorsed a plan to give the Chicago Public Schools four more months to decide where to make cuts in the number of schools the system operates.
The House Executive Committee voted 11-0 in favor of a measure to extend the deadline for CPS to submit a school closing list from Dec. 1 to March 1. The proposal now goes to the full House for consideration.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett told lawmakers the move would give the district more time to get input from parents and the community about which schools should close.
Some lawmakers wanted to cast their votes in favor of the CPS plan, even before public testimony was allowed. That didn’t sit well with many in the audience who opposed the plan. Chicago Teachers Union members and community activists repeatedly interrupted the committee hearing, and demanded CPS officials answer their questions before lawmakers voted.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
Bennett’s testimony before the Executive Committee came one day after she proposed a five-year moratorium on school closings starting next fall.
She told lawmakers some existing schools would have to be shuttered before the moratorium would start.
“The fiscal reality facing the Chicago Public Schools is a billion-dollar deficit, and it dictates that we not … hesitate to make difficult decisions,” she said.
But, referencing the plan for a five-year moratorium, she said parents and teachers shouldn’t have to deal with the stress of worrying every year about whether their school might close.
“We must give our parents and teachers – and members of the community – a peace of mind that is deserved. They should not have to worry every year about what actions will be taken, and whether or not a school facility will be closed in their neighborhood,” she said.
Wendy Katten, who heads the parent group “Raise Your Hand” said the community wants a year’s delay on any school closings.
“We believe that the district is currently woefully ill-prepared to take on this type of mass closing that we feel will occur. With this five-year promise of a moratorium, that indicates to us that there’s gonna be a massive amount of closings this year,” she said.
Byrd-Bennett promised the community will have a say in any plans to close schools before next school year.
CPS officials have repeatedly denied reports that the district has a list of up to 120 schools that could be closed after this school year, due to low enrollment or poor performance.