Watchdog Accuses Chicago Public Schools Of Violating Open Records Law

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools have been hit with a lawsuit accusing the administration of violating the law when it comes to providing the public with information about how the district is run.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Matt Topic, an attorney for the Better Government Association, said the lawsuit alleges CPS has violated the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by either delaying responses to requests for district records, or not responding at all.

“There’s individual instances in which CPS has failed to provide records to BGA and to NBC Chicago, but we think that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve seen dozens of instances in which CPS has failed to respond to FOIA requests in a timely manner,” he said.

He said CPS routinely takes longer than the five days required to respond to a FOIA request, and often doesn’t acknowledge a request at all.

“We’re not talking here about instances in which CPS has produced records after 12 days, or 15 days; we’re talking about requests that have been unanswered for months, and months, and months,” he said.

Topic said the problem might be the whole school system – a district with a $5.6 billion budget, more than 650 schools. more than 400,000 students, and nearly 42,000 employees – has only one person handling all FOIA requests.

“We know that CPS gets a lot of FOIA requests, but as best we can tell CPS has only one employee assigned to responding to these requests. We think that is probably the source of the problem, is that CPS is simply not devoting enough resources to this,” he said.

The lawsuit – filed in Cook County Circuit Court – seeks to force the district to provide more resources to provide information requested under FOIA.

“We’re asking the state court here to both order CPS to produce the specific records that NBC and BGA have requested, but we’re also asking the court to enter injunctive relief to force things to change at CPS,” Topic said. “If they reform their processes, devote the necessary resources so … this ongoing pattern of delay and not responding to requests comes to an end.”

You can read the BGA lawsuit by clicking here.

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