The Chicago Teachers Union helped a handful of parents file a pair of civil rights lawsuits Wednesday, seeking to slow down or stop Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to close 53 elementary schools this year.
The lawsuits allege that Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close and consolidate schools, if approved, will violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
One case brought by three parents of students with special needs seeks an injunction that would hold off on closings for another year, so that students with special needs can have adequate time to adjust to a new school. There are roughly 6,000 students with special needs in schools that are proposed for closure.
The other suit claims the way CPS has gone about selecting schools for closure, both this year and in the past, is racist. CTU has been making the same claim for months.
“It may be failing schools one year, it may be under-utilization the next year, but the criteria all have one thing in common, the end result is that African American children are sent into equally segregated, equally failing schools,” said Thomas Goeghegan, the attorney representing the parents, who also have support from the teachers union.
According to district enrollment numbers, 80 percent of the students in proposed closing schools are black. But black students make up only 40 percent of the district’s total enrollment. CPS has been closing schools for a decade and most closings have occurred on the South and West sides of the city in predominately African American and Latino schools.
In a statement, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the lawsuits and CTU are “protecting a status quo that doesn’t put children first.”
The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposals to close and consolidate schools next Wednesday, May 22.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter at WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.