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Union: CPS Layoffs Unfairly Affected African-American Teachers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Chicago Teachers Union wants federal investigators to review the school board's teacher layoff policy to see if it has unfairly impacted African-American teachers.

The union said in its complaint, filed Wednesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that 29 percent of the teachers the board employed by the Chicago Board of Education in 2011 were black. But it said blacks composed 43 percent of the tenured teachers laid off and 40 percent overall.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Bob Roberts reports


Union Attorney Shankar Ramamurthy said that even if it was inadvertent, he believes it violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"A lot of these teachers who were included in these layoffs are tenured, senior teachers who have the highest accolades," he said. "These are not unsatisfactory teachers."

In all, the board laid off 369 African-American teachers.

A Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman said the allegation is not the first to be made by the union, and attorneys for the union indicated it was one of many challenges contemplated.

"We can no longer accept a status quo that has failed our children year after year," said spokeswoman Becky Carroll. "That status quo has created a double-digit achievement gap among African-American students that continues to grow. This is unacceptable and we will not allow any student to be left behind academically because we would not take action to improve our schools. It would be an injustice to not take action on these low performing schools."

Carroll said it was a matter of putting "students first."

The commission will investigate before it decides whether to prosecute. Union attorney Robin Potter said no deadline is set for the investigation.

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