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Union Accuses CPS Of 'Hollow Promises' On School Closings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A year after the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 public schools, the Chicago Teachers Union accused the district of breaking promises to use the money saved by the closures to make improvements at so-called welcoming schools.

The union has released a report claiming the district spent most of the millions of dollars saved by school closings elsewhere in the system. Their report was based on documents from seven of the welcoming schools that took in students from schools that have closed, and interviews with teachers at those seven schools.

The union's "Twelve Months Later" report said, although CPS officials touted plans for libraries and computer labs at every receiving school, most of them do not have a librarian or technology teacher.

"They said that resources would improve in these schools, but what we're finding is that the chronic under-resourcing in these schools in the South and West sides – the receiving schools – has not improved at all," said Pavlyn Jankov, author of the union's report. "What we're seeing is what we call hollow promises."

RELATED: CTU's "Twelve Months Later" Report | CPS Response

Jankov said money for librarians and technology teachers has been diverted elsewhere in the school system.

"Selective enrollment schools expanding. They're spending essentially $70,000 per seat across Jones, Payton, the new Obama school on the North Side; and yet when they talk about rationalizing the school system, the communities that hurt from that are the communities on the South and West sides," he said.

Jankov CPS didn't back up infrastructure and technology upgrades at schools with proper staffing or training for teachers.

"The resources aren't there to make the best use of those capital improvements," he said. "The iPads came, but there wasn't sufficient professional development around that kind of technology improvement. And computer labs that they pretty much spent a lot of money putting into these schools don't have technology teachers."

CPS Chief Executive Officer said the union's report deliberately mischaracterizes the district's investments.

CPS officials said, with the district's school-based budgeting approach, principals decide how best to spend money at their schools, whether it's on new teachers or not.

"CTU continues to look back to the old quota model where the type of staff in each school is dictated by someone outside the school," CPS officials wrote in a handout. "The SBB model means that principals make choices about where to direct their resources."

Byrd-Bennett said CPS spent $155 million on capital improvements at welcoming schools that would not have been possible without the savings from school closings.

She said welcoming schools have seen improvements in attendance, classroom performance, and on-track rates for graduation; while also seeing fewer instances of misconduct.


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