The city of Chicago and its Board of Education have been sued by parents seeking to block a plan to close 53 elementary schools in the nation’s third-biggest school district.
Parents of three children, two who have disabilities and a third who is black, filed suit today at the U.S. District Court in Chicago alleging the closing plan violates the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
“Defendants have proposed the largest school closings in the history of American public education,” according to the two-count complaint.
Supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the stated goal of the initiative announced in March is to eliminate schools the city has identified as “underutilized.”
The third-biggest U.S. city, Chicago has a population of about 2.7 million. Its public school system serves 403,000 students attending 681 schools, according to the Chicago Public Schools website.
The parents sued on behalf of a proposed class of about 5,000 disabled students they say will be irreparably harmed by a transfer into new schools and for the 23 percent of the city’s black elementary-school children whose rights are allegedly being violated by the plan.
Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for the schools system, didn’t immediately reply to a voice-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.
A second complaint, filed later today by the parents of three more children with disabilities, alleges the closing plan was propsed too late in the year and doesn’t allow sufficient time for those children and their peers to transition to “unfamiliar” schools.
Final school board approval of the closing plan may not occur until May 22, according to that complaint, which seeks a court order delaying the closings for at least a year.
“Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long, children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools,” CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said of the closings plan in a statement issued on March 21.
“Chicago must make tough choices and by consolidating these schools we can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school close to their home,” Byrd-Bennett said then.
Emanuel’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the parents’ lawsuit.
Backing the litigation is the Chicago Teachers Union.
“School closings as policy is unsound,” said CTU President Karen Lewis, said in a statement today.“This city has worked systematically to undermine our public education system and destabilize certain communities.”
The remedy for failing schools she said, is targeted reform and investment. “There is no magic bullet,” Lewis said.
The first case is McDaniel v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 13-cv-03624, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). The second case is Swan v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 13-cv-03623, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
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