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March 21, 2014

Contact: Stephanie A. Gadlin

Mayor Emanuel Continues War on the City’s Predominantly Black Neighborhood Schools

CTU President Karen Lewis says the district’s proposal to “turn around” three elementary schools in April is just another round of “school closings by another name.”

CHICAGO – Today, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) was informed by officials of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that it intends to recommend three elementary schools are turned around to the controversial Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) in the coming school year. As a result, all employees in those buildings will be laid off as the district scrambles to replace them with educators and other personnel.

AUSL not only has a poor track record of raising the performance standards at schools turned over to its administrators, the organization also has ties to the members of the Board of Education including Board  President David Vitale who once served as its chairman. All decisions made at CPS must be approved by Mayor Emanuel who has taken the wrecking ball/privatization approach to so-called school reform.

Schools slated for “turn around” include McNair, Dvorak and Gresham elementary schools. At McNair, 52 percent of the staff are African American; at Dvorak 70 percent of the teachers are African Americans; and at Gresham 65 percent of educators are African American. Black students are 97.1 percent of the student body and 98 percent of them are low-income. (The average age of teachers at those schools is 50 and 42, respectively.)  All of these neighborhood campuses are under-resourced and cater to students with special needs. The use of high-stakes standardized tests to measure performance is not only disingenuous but absolutely outrageous given the social metrics involved.

“In the face of the largest school closing in U.S. history, CPS will terminate educators and staff at three predominantly African American elementary schools and disrupt the lives of hundreds of our students. This is the mayor’s continued war on our schools and older black educators.  This is nothing more than school closings by another name,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “After closing 50 schools, now we find three campuses more on the chopping block while the mayor continues his televised propaganda campaign of promoting these disastrous policies.

“Parents, community members and educators continued to be united in our fight for the schools our children deserve,” Lewis said. “Today’s surprise announcement is a slap in the face to those of us who are attempting to negotiate for more resources, collaboration and support throughout our district. We also continue to question the conflicts-of interest between the Board of Education and the privately managed AUSL which is being recommended for the proposed turn around.”

Today’s news gives parents and community members no opportunity to sign up to express their concerns at the March Board of Education meeting. The deadline for public participation in that meeting has passed.

UPDATE: On April 23, the Chicago Board of Education voted to “turn around” all three schools, continuing its chaos in our city’s most deserving and under-resourced neighborhoods.