The mayor’s handpicked school board refuses to address or remedy persistent discriminatory policies that target Black and Brown schools and educators for layoffs, closures and termination.
CHICAGO, April 8, 2021—A federal judge has set a date of June 8 for a settlement conference between the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools in the Union’s class action lawsuit against the district’s racially discriminatory turnaround policy.
CPS had sought repeatedly to have the nine-year-old case dismissed, a move that Judge Sara Ellis of the Northern District of Illinois ruled against in March, over CPS objections. Today, Judge Ellis referred the case to a federal magistrate to conduct a settlement conference, and advised the parties that a trial date could be set in 60 days when the parties return to court, if the case is not settled.
“Black educators have shared heartbreaking stories of derailed careers, financial hardship and emotional trauma in the wake of these illegitimate layoffs, and as a result, the Board needs to make them whole and end its racist evaluation polices, which only perpetuate the inequities that the turnarounds intensified,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said.
Chicago’s mayors used turnarounds aggressively beginning in the mid-2000s, firing all educators at dozens of targeted schools in Black neighborhoods and with high populations of Black educators. The “performance” metrics that CPS used as a pretext to fire all staff are themselves racist, and the Union is demanding that any settlement include enforceable provisions to end their use.
CPS attorneys told the judge today that the mayor’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education will entertain a settlement only on monetary issues for the Black educators whose careers and lives were derailed by CPS’ unfair firing. CPS attorneys asserted the Board’s position was to ”jealously and aggressively protect” CPS from any effort to reverse the use of those racist metrics themselves or the board’s turnaround practices, and this was a “deal point” for CPS. In response, the Court urged a word of caution to both sides to exercise good faith and try to resolve the case.
While the district has backed away in recent years from using its turnround policy to dismantle school communities, CPS’ current school evaluation tool, SQRP, is a direct policy descendant of the racist metrics used to justify turnarounds between 2005 and 2014. Hundreds of veteran Black teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff were dismissed from their jobs through turnarounds built on those metrics, driving down the number of Black educators in CPS from a high of about 40 percent to barely 20 percent today.
The Union’s civil rights lawsuit seeks monetary damages for more than 300 African-American teachers targeted by turnarounds; a declaration that the CPS turnaround policies are racially discriminatory; the appointment of a monitor to evaluate, oversee and change or eliminate turnarounds to ensure there is no racial impact on Black schools, staff or communities; a permanent moratorium on turnarounds; and non-discriminatory and effective measures to improve school performance.
Mayor Lightfoot is no stranger to class action lawsuits related to race discrimination, having defended investment firm Merrill Lynch in a $160 million racial discrimination suit filed by Black stockbrokers. She also settled a recent lawsuit filed by families at National Teachers Academy to prevent CPS from closing the school, a grassroots effort that exposed that standardized tests used to justify turnarounds and school actions discriminated against Black students.
CPS has spent more than $5 million to undermine Black educators’ efforts to reclaim the positions from which they were purged because of the Board of Education’s racist policies.