Lawmakers delay Chicago school closings issue


Share
Posted Online: March 20, 2013, 8:28 am
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A chief sponsor of a bill that would have stopped Chicago Public Schools from closing any schools until at least 2015 set the proposal aside Tuesday, saying he needs to drum up more support and watch how officials in the nation's third largest school district proceed with the controversial plans.

Chicago Public Schools officials have identified 129 potential schools to close, saying many facilities have too few students to justify keeping them open. District officials say closures would cut costs for the district that faces a $1 billion budget shortfall and better funnel resources to students.

But the issue has been highly contentious for months with charged community meetings all over the city. Opponents say closures would disproportionately affect minority students, threaten the safety of students who may have to cross gang boundaries if their schools are closed and cause major inconveniences for families.

State Sen. William Delgado, a Chicago Democrat, proposed a roughly two-year moratorium — until the end of the 2014-2015 school year— to allow the district to have more time to address those issues. But he said Tuesday that he didn't have enough votes on the Education Committee, which includes Sen. Iris Martinez, a Chicago Democrat who was appointed by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett for a school closings commission.

Committee members heard roughly two hours of testimony in support of a moratorium from community groups, union members, parents and several Chicago aldermen. Some said the closings would cause truancy to surge and unfairly impact homeless students because it would disrupt their only stability.

In the end, senators on the committee only voted to strip the bill of its language so Delgado can discuss details with city and school officials and see how they proceed. Lawmakers also faced a deadline this week of getting bills out of committee and the unusual move would allow lawmakers to come back to it later.

'This is a victory because the bill stayed alive,' Delgado told reporters after the hearing. 'If it had stayed in committee, it was over for the communities that have an option to address CPS and make them accountable.'

The district has to publicly release a list of schools it will close by March 31, but they won't be shuttered immediately. There'll be more public hearings. Byrd-Bennett has said that the district can't afford to wait on closures and that resources are stretched too thin in the district as it is.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures and has also criticized the district for lack of a concrete plan and not being forthcoming with details. School officials at Tuesday's committee hearing dismissed those claims, citing the numerous community meetings.

Roughly 400,000 students are enrolled in Chicago schools.

__

The bill is SB1571.

Online: http://www.ilga.gov














 



Local events heading








  Today is Friday, Aug. 1, the 213th day of 2014. There are 152 days left in the year.

1864 — 150 years ago: A mad dog was shot in Davenport after biting several other canines and snapping at several children. The police should abate this nuisance — there are about 500 dogs in this city that ought to be killed at once.
1889 — 125 years ago: Track laying operations on 2nd Avenue, stopped by the Moline-Rock Island company last spring for lack of rail, have been resumed.
1914 — 100 years ago: Bulletins allowed to come through the strong continental censorship of all war news indicated that Germany was advancing with a dash against both Russia and France.
1939 — 75 years ago: Emil J Klein, of Rock Island, was elected commander of Rock Island Post 200, American Legion.
1964 — 50 years ago: Members of the Davenport police department and their families are being invited to the department's family picnic to be held Aug. 27 at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.
1989 — 25 years ago: Beginning this fall, Black Hawk College will offer a continuing education course in horseback riding at the Wright Way Equestrian Center, Moline, located just east of the Deere Administration Center.




(More History)