Union argues that 2011 layoffs targeted Black educators in segregated schools even as district policies continue to decimate ranks of Black teachers and support staff.
CHICAGO, September 16, 2020—For almost ten years, the CTU has been battling CPS in federal court on a class action civil rights case that charges sweeping and systemic racism in the layoff of more than 600 Black educators and support staff in 2011. On September 15, the Seventh Court of Appeals heard arguments in that case, with a ruling expected in the coming months.
The Union has pursued the case as part of a larger effort to reverse mass losses of Black CPS educators, whose numbers have been cut by almost half in the last 15 years to barely 20 percent of the workforce. The educators laid off in 2011 taught in—and many lived in—South and West Side neighborhoods that have been decimated by decades of racist disinvestment and neglect at the hands of Chicago mayors and their handpicked Chicago Board of Education.
Randall Schmidt of the University of Chicago’s Mandel Legal Aid Clinic argued today’s oral arguments for the Union; those arguments can be heard here. .
“This nation is undergoing a reckoning on hundreds of years of white supremacy—and these workers and their students are victims of systemic racism,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “We have an obligation to pursue the civil rights of both our wrongfully purged Black workers and the thousands of Black students who’ve been denied access to Black educators, especially in the face of evidence that a Black student who has the opportunity to study with even one Black educator sees her educational and life prospects improve dramatically”.
In 2011, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s handpicked Board of Education laid off teachers and paraprofessionals by eliminating positions in segregated schools with predominately and disproportionately African American educators and students.The Board’s pretext was an extreme budget crisis, and the Union has argued in court that CPS’ layoff criteria had a “significant adverse racial impact on the certified class of African American teachers and paraprofessionals”. CPS could have adopted a variety of alternate measures instead of laying these employees off, including transferring them to the large number of open positions that the Board needed to fill at the time of the layoffs.
“We have seen systemic racism and neglect drive over a quarter of a million Black residents from this city in the last 20 years, and discrimination against Black workers has been a linchpin in that attack,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “We aim to end at least one of those practices—the racist firing of Black educators that has decimated their income and their ability to practice their profession—with this lawsuit.”
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a ruling on the case in the coming months. The Union continues to pursue a parallel class action civil rights lawsuit that charges CPS with deploying a racist school “turnaround” policy that has also purged Black educators from public schools.
The Union is seeking both restitution for laid-off employees and prohibitions on racist CPS policies that target educators of color.