On Space Utilization and the Narrative of Right-Sizing the District
CPS is planning to close a very large number of schools this year. They claim that they have 140 schools that are half-empty. Luckily, we have a very dedicated parent working with us, Jeanne Marie Olson, who has analyzed the way CPS determines their numbers and has found that they use a formula that works to both exaggerate underutilization and underreport overcrowding. You can have 36 students in every homeroom in your building and still be considered “efficient” under this formula. You can have a full building with 24 kids in almost all homerooms and 23 students in one and be “underutilized.”
You can see Jeanne’s Google fusion table here looking at CPS’ formula versus her numbers:
The district has been saying that 145,000 school-aged children have left Chicago in the past decade. WBEZ Truth Squad fact-checked the numbers and found that while 145,000 children did indeed exit the city, of those, only 28,289were CPS students.
CPS says they must shutter schools to save money due to having too many excess seats. They say this, but at the Board of Education meeting next week they are approving the opening of 7 new charter schools and have said they will likely approve more this year. So, if CPS is closing schools due to empty seats, where is the logic behind opening new ones? Last weekend CPS had a school fair for charters where 1/3 of the charters schools were “Level 3” schools, the same standard they use to close neighborhood schools. Again, if CPS is saying a level 3 school is not adequately serving the students and needs to be eliminated, where is the logic behind pushing a level 3 school as an "option" for parents looking to improve the quality of their child's education? Parents are confused about the goals and standards of this district. We deserve an honest dialogue.
CPS appointed a commission on space utilization to make recommendations on school closings and they have been having hearings this week. http://www.schoolutilization.com/Schedule
RYH and Jeanne Marie will be testifying at the meeting this Friday at Horner Park, 2741 W. Montrose at 7pm and we hope some of you can attend. Many parents from Brentano and Ames and other schools that want to keep their schools intact will be there to testify. Here is a petition that Ames put out, as their Alderman has put in a request to turn their school into a Marine Military academy against parent and community wishes.https://www.change.org/petitions/alderman-maldonado-mayor-emanuel-cps-ceo-barbara-byrd-bennett-keep-ames-a-community-school-no-military-school
Many of our schools could have closed at one point or another due to underutilization. Read this post from Pete Leki, Chair of the first LSC at Waters elementary and founder of the ecology program there. He recounts the experience of Waters being close to being shut down, as well as the importance neighborhood schools play in the lives of the communities they serve. <LINK?>
RYH is not proposing that CPS never close a school. We understand that after careful, truthful, accurate analysis, sometimes a school does indeed need to be shut down. What we are requesting is a more transparent, honest conversation that puts educational quality first and treats children and families with the respect they deserve around these very high-stakes decisions. With the current time frame, school closings likely won’t be voted on by the Board until May. That does not give families much time to plan for both the closure, and finding another school for their children. Children deserve a sound and safe plan that ensures they will not be put in harm’s way. Having to travel out of their own neighborhoods and into others, is not always a safe journey for many CPS students. Given the safety issues that many of our children have to endure, we are very concerned about the district’s current plan.