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Quinn gives CPS more time for school closings

Gov. PQuinn visits East AurorMagnet Academy October. File Photo. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

Gov. Pat Quinn visits the East Aurora Magnet Academy in October. File Photo. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 2, 2013 6:11AM



A day before Chicago Public School officials were supposed to announce which schools they will close or consolidate, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law Friday a bill that extends the deadline until March 31.

The list of proposed buildings to shutter or combine was due Dec. 1, under a previous state law designed to grant affected parents months to decide where to send their children to school.

New CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett asked the Legislature for more time so she can gather community input on the plans.

“I thank Governor Quinn for signing this bill and for his support of our work to ensure that the voices of parents and school communities are included at the front-end of this process,” she said in a statement Friday.

Citing a lack of public trust, Byrd-Bennett created a commission to make recommendations to her in time for the new March deadline.

The vote ­— overwhelming in the House and unanimous in the Senate — came despite criticism from community activists who worry that the changes will disproportionately target schools full of minority children. The Chicago Teachers Union, which opposed the legislation — and school closings — argued that it’s implausible for the nation’s third-largest school district to try to address 100,000 excess seats in only a few months and with no long-term master plan in place.

“That’s backwards,” CTU President Karen Lewis said earlier this week. “It’s a
huge round of closings without a plan. This is going to be a mess — a hot, buttery mess.”

Late Friday, CPS also released the final guidelines under which it will make school-closing decisions, though the district did not quantify or define what it means by “underutilized” or “overcrowded”.

The first hearing at which the public is invited to speak about utilization will be held Monday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Salem Baptist Church, 752 E. 114th St.

Contributing: Rosalind Rossi, Dave McKinney



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