CHICAGO (CBS) – In their continuing efforts to oppose plans to close more than 50 public schools, the Chicago Teachers Union filed two federal lawsuits on behalf of parents whose children attend schools targeted for closure or consolidation.
The lawsuits will allege the Chicago Public Schools’ plans to close 53 elementary schools amount to a civil rights violation against the students. The lawsuits will seek to halt the school closings.
The move comes a week after a group of independent hearing officers issued reports opposing at least 13 of the planned closings, arguing the district has not adequately planned security measures for students who would be forced to travel through dangerous neighborhoods, or that the new schools were not clearly better than those being closed.
In an email, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said, “Too many children today are trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools cheating them of the investments they need to succeed in the classroom. Instead of offering up solutions, CTU continues to protect a status quo that doesn’t put our children first. Consolidating underutilized schools is necessary to give children the resources they need to access a quality, 21st century education.”
The union also has planned a three-day protest walk starting Saturday, during which demonstrators plan to march to every school targeted for closing, culminating in a protest rally on Monday at Daley Plaza.
Attorney Tom Geoghegan, who’s representing the plaintiffs, says the lawsuits add up to this: that the school closings are racially discriminatory because blacks are the population most affected -and that closings would hurt students who are disabled because they wouldn’t get proper orientation to their new schools.
Geoghegan said the money is there to keep schools open.
“The city of Chicago makes all the financial decisions of the board of education, and the board of education is essentially a poodle of the city of Chicago – which is sitting on big piles of cash, including TIF funds and could easily make the accommodation that these are needed to keep these schools open.”
The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to hold a final vote on the school closing plans next Wednesday, May 22.