Teachers Union Calls School Closings Racist

     CHICAGO (CN) – The Chicago Teachers Union says the city’s massive school closings over the past decade and a half targeted black schools, resulting in the disproportionate layoffs of black teachers.
     Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, Donald Garrett, Jr., and Edward Scott filed a class action against the Board of Education of the City of Chicago in Federal Court.
     According to the complaint, 86 Chicago schools were closed from 2001 to 2009, and another 49 schools closed in 2013. Of this total, the plaintiffs say, 89 percent of were schools whose populations were overwhelming black.
     The plaintiffs further assert the Chicago Public Schools subject underperforming schools to “turnaround,” a process which dismisses all faculty and staff and replaces them.
     In 2013, 73 percent of the tenured teachers fired in turnarounds were black, despite the fact black teachers make up only 24 percent of all tenured teachers, the complaint says.
     “Defendant’s pattern and practice of intentionally targeting schools with high African American teaching and staff populations for turnaround constitutes disparate treatment and also has a disparate impact on African American staff,” the plaintiffs say.
     Approximately 90 percent of students educated in Chicago Public Schools are minorities, of which 39 percent are black.
     However, for the past 15 years, the percentage of black teachers has steadily fallen, the complaint says.
     In 2000, the plaintiffs say, 40 percent of public school teachers were black, but by 2010 the figure had fallen to 30 percent. By fall of 2014, only 24 percent of Chicago Public School’s 22,519 teachers were black, and 50 percent were white.
     “The drastic decline in African American teachers corresponds directly with Defendant’s intentional actions, policies and practices that have phased out, closed, combined or reconstituted purportedly poor performing schools and in the African-American community,” the complaint says.
     “Defendant’s actions constitute a policy and practice of discrimination on the basis of race,” the union claims.
     One teacher who taught high school on Chicago’s Southwest Side told Courthouse News he found the pervasive racism distressing, from white students and teachers.
     The teacher, who is white, said an assistant principal told him not to play basketball at lunch with students on the “black” playground.
     Teachers circulated a petition at the school against “outsiders” when the school began offering night-time class for predominantly black adults, he said.
     One day Chicago police were called because of a “race riot” which the teacher said was a fantasy.
     “White upperclassmen started taking their little sisters out of class in the morning and taking them home,” the teacher said. “Police came and stood in the hallways with their guns pulled during passing time. It was bizarre. There was no riot. It was just white boys saying that their sisters were being threatened.”
     The teacher, who taught in high schools for nine years and in colleges, asked that his name be withheld as he intends to continue in the profession.
     The day the union filed this complaint, parents at Dyett High School in Bronzeville, a predominantly black neighborhood, entered Day 31 of their hunger strike protesting the closing of the school. CPS has reversed its plans to shutter the school, and now plans to reinvent it as an arts magnet school, but parents remain on strike, saying they want a broader education for their children.
     The lawsuit was filed shortly after the Chicago Teachers Union and school district agreed to enlist a mediator in their efforts to agree on a new contract. CPS faces a budget gap of more than $1 billion, and seeks to reduce its pension obligations.
     In order to make its last $634 million pension payment on June 30, CPS had to borrow $200 million, and announced that 1,400 employees will be laid off.
     The teacher’s union is represented by Robin Potter.

%d bloggers like this: