Byrd-Bennett proposes 5-year moratorium on CPS closures - FOX 35 News Orlando

Byrd-Bennett proposes 5-year moratorium on CPS closures

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Just weeks after a painful teachers strike, Chicago Public Schools begin a new battle: a showdown over school closings.

Barbara Byrd Bennet, the new CEO of CPS offered a startling deal Monday: a 5-year moratorium on shutting any public school after this school year. Critics say that catch is way too open-ended.

"I'm not against a moratorium but it's a funny kind of moratorium that begins by closing a whole bunch of schools," Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey says. "I mean it's not a moratorium on school closings if the first thing it does is close schools. What if this round they're gonna close 130 schools?"

The Chicago teachers union has been complaining about so-called school closings for years.

On Monday, new CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennet could not say how many schools might be affected in a so-called final round, but she told the city club luncheon that her boss wants to give parents a chance to have their say.

"Based on the district's history and our past actions, we need to acknowledge that," Byrd Bennet said. "We need to acknowledge that communities simply do not trust what we do or what we say, it's very very sad."

Parents stuck in limbo every year prompted lawmakers in 2010 to set a December 1st deadline for CPS to announce school closings for the next year. Now the board wants an extra four months, just this once.

"The mayor said that if our request for the extension is granted, that CPS will then implement a moratorium on all CPS facility closures for the next five years, and we will begin next fall," says Byrd Bennet.

The 5-year hold comes straight from the mayor, who said Monday in a statement:

"In the past, there has been too much uncertainty around changes to our schools. Year after year, Chicago Public Schools did not do an adequate job of engaging communities in these critical decisions, and year after year students, families and communities were left wondering of what was to come. That ends this year."

Byrd Bennet, the mayor's second schools chief in his second year in office, made it clear there will be some pain before the promised stability.

"The reality is, that our excess schools cause us to stretch our resources, our tiny resources right now, far too thinly," Emanuel said.

Many believe that the high price of settling this fall's teachers strike will be paid by a drastic number of school closings this year. Facing a billion dollar deficit, CPS says consolidating campuses could save millions. The teachers union and other critics dispute even that:

"So we're closing schools because there's too many buildings, but at the same time we're building 60 new charter schools," says Jesse Sharkey.

CEO Byrd Bennet is traveling to Springfield Tuesday to lobby for the extension during lawmakers' veto session.

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