WBEZ | chicago school closings http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-school-closings Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Orr pushes Chicago to tap special tax dollars for schools http://www.wbez.org/news/orr-pushes-chicago-tap-special-tax-dollars-schools-108364 <p><p>Cook County Clerk David Orr is joining the chorus of public officials calling on Chicago politicians to tap money from controversial special taxing funds to help shore up the city&rsquo;s struggling public schools.</p><p>Orr said Thursday that Chicago&rsquo;s 154 tax increment financing districts - or TIFs - contain untold millions of dollars that could help close Chicago Public School&rsquo;s estimated $1 billion budget gap for the next school year.</p><p>&ldquo;The ideal would be - is, before we open the schools, that some of these things could be resolved,&rdquo; Orr said at a press conference Thursday. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure they can do it. I&rsquo;m glad some of the aldermen called for this, but the sooner they declare a surplus, the sooner that money could be distributed.&rdquo;</p><p>Orr didn&rsquo;t say exactly how much unused TIF money he thought should flow back into the city&rsquo;s school district, but suggested it should be &ldquo;much more&rdquo; than the $10.5 million that CPS got during the last calendar year.</p><p>The Democratic clerk is hardly the first person to call for TIF money to help Chicago&rsquo;s schools. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/more-officials-call-use-tif-funds-stop-school-cuts-107933">Several Chicago politicians</a> recently urged Mayor Rahm Emanuel and aldermen to declare a so-called TIF surplus to benefit the school system, and the Chicago Teachers Union and advocates have been asking that for years.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s TIF districts generated $457 million in revenue during 2012, up slightly from the year before, according to an annual report Orr released Thursday. In a TIF, any property tax revenue generated from an increase in property values is funneled into a special fund reserved for economic development projects in the district.</p><p>But that also means tax dollars are being diverted away from local governments and school districts. And at a time when Emanuel&rsquo;s administration is in the midst of the largest round of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294">school closures</a> in American history- in part, it maintains, to save money - many have called on City Hall to distribute surplus TIF dollars that aren&rsquo;t already earmarked for specific projects.</p><p>Declaring a TIF surplus would require approval by Chicago&rsquo;s City Council. Emanuel&rsquo;s administration said Thursday that CPS will already be getting $18 million in TIF money over the next school year.</p><p>Right now, his administration estimates there is $80 million to $100 million in unallocated Chicago TIF money. But the city would likely tap only about a fifth of that if it declared a surplus, in order to leave cash for other projects or unexpected revenue shortfalls, according to a top Emanuel budget aide. That would ultimately leave just about $8 million to $10 million for Chicago Public Schools.</p><p>Emanuel helped balance this year&rsquo;s budget with $25 million in surplus TIF money, and mayoral spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said Emanuel likely tap some special taxing funds again this year.</p><p>&ldquo;But, let&#39;s be clear, any amount of surplus available would be a drop in the bucket compared to the $1 billion structural gap CPS is facing,&rdquo; Strand said. &ldquo;We need pension reform now or further cuts will be unavoidable and fall on the doorsteps of our classrooms.&quot;</p><p>Chicago Public Schools estimates its teacher pension costs will <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-new-pension-headache-107512">explode</a> by upwards of $400 million next year, after state lawmakers refused to give the district another break from paying into the retirement fund. Some schools have already reported <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-schools-facing-cuts-under-new-funding-system-107692">steep budget cuts</a>, though CPS has not yet released its budget for next year.</p><p>But however modest, Orr still said a TIF surplus could provide some respite for city schools.</p><p>&ldquo;How do you explain to the kids in many of these schools that gym, music, art, other kinds of things, are cancelled, while profitable businesses...downtown receive $25, $30, $40, $50 million, whatever, to help their development?&rdquo;</p><p><em>Alex Keefe covers politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 11 Jul 2013 10:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/orr-pushes-chicago-tap-special-tax-dollars-schools-108364 CTU, parents file lawsuit against school closures http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-parents-file-lawsuit-against-school-closures-107419 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/lewis_healy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union filed a third lawsuit to stop schools from being closed this year.</p><p>The most recent suit, filed Wednesday morning, seeks to permanently halt the planned closure of ten schools included in the 50 approved by the Board of Education last week. It&#39;s the largest round of school closings in American history.&nbsp;</p><p>For those ten grammar schools&mdash;Buckingham, Calhoun North, Delano, King, Mayo, Morgan, Overton, Stewart, Stockton, and Williams&mdash;former judges ruled that CPS was not complying with its own guidelines for shutting down schools.</p><p>But the school board approved the closings anyway, a move the lawsuit alleges violates <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&amp;SessionId=84&amp;GA=97&amp;DocTypeId=SB&amp;DocNum=630&amp;GAID=11&amp;LegID=&amp;SpecSess=&amp;Session=" target="_blank">state law</a>. That law requires CPS to create guidelines for school closings and then requires independent hearing officers to evaluate whether district officials followed them. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re the ones that wrote your own procedures and rules. You&rsquo;re the ones that wrote the guidelines,&rdquo; said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. &ldquo;And now you&rsquo;ve broken every single one of your own rules and the procedures that you agreed to and you&rsquo;re not even following the recommendations of those retired judges.&rdquo;</p><p>Sharkey said the district broke the law and should be held accountable.</p><p>Robert Bloch, CTU general counsel, said the judges&rsquo; rulings should be the final word. He pointed to where the law says if CPS did not follow the guidelines, &ldquo;the proposed school action shall not be approved by the Board during the school year in which the school action was proposed.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll issued a statement that said &ldquo;union leadership remains committed to a status quo that is failing too many children trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools.&rdquo;</p><p>The lawsuit names 10 parents as well. LaKecha Green is one of them. She has three children, two who attend King Elementary and one who is still too young for school.</p><p>Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Green fought back tears describing how far her children will have to walk to receiving school Jensen.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to have a very cold heart to say they&rsquo;re doing this so they&rsquo;ll have a better education, but if you can&rsquo;t get to the education, what good is it?&rdquo; Green said.</p><p>CPS has said it will provide busing to Jensen for current King students, but Green is still concerned.</p><p>Retired Cook County Circuit Court Judge Bernetta Bush did rule that the transition plan for King students did not &ldquo;adequately address academic and safety concerns&rdquo; and did not comply with the districts closure guidelines. District officials revised King&rsquo;s transition plan after Bush&rsquo;s ruling and before the Board vote.</p><p>After the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/independent-hearing-officers-oppose-14-cps-proposals-close-shake-schools-107066" target="_blank">hearing officers&rsquo; reports came out</a>, CPS&rsquo;s law department immediately posted responses to the district website. At the time, Carroll said the former judges were overstepping their role &ldquo;by opining or creating or adding their own opinion.&rdquo;</p><p>It&rsquo;s not clear what role or significance the district&rsquo;s responses and revisions will play in court.</p><p>Just before the Board of Education&rsquo;s vote last week, the union&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/teachers-union-helps-parents-file-lawsuits-stop-school-closings-107195" target="_blank">filed a pair of lawsuits in federal court</a>&nbsp;alleging that the proposed closings violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.</p><p><em>Becky Vevea is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><p><a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/144501009/CTU-complaint-to-halt-10-of-50-school-closings" style="text-decoration: underline;" title="View CTU complaint to halt 10 of 50 school closings on Scribd">CTU complaint to halt 10 of 50 school closings</a></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><iframe class="scribd_iframe_embed" data-aspect-ratio="undefined" data-auto-height="false" frameborder="0" height="600" id="doc_57303" scrolling="no" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/144501009/content?start_page=1&amp;view_mode=scroll&amp;show_recommendations=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 29 May 2013 14:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ctu-parents-file-lawsuit-against-school-closures-107419 Protesters march against plan to close CPS schools http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-march-against-plan-close-cps-schools-107253 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/IMAG1290.jpg" alt="" /><p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/march-against-chicago-school-closings.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/march-against-chicago-school-closings" target="_blank">View the story "March against Chicago school closings " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Fri, 17 May 2013 15:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-march-against-plan-close-cps-schools-107253 At midterm, Emanuel still cozy with City Council http://www.wbez.org/news/midterm-emanuel-still-cozy-city-council-107199 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/RS760_114218744-scr (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel hits his midterm Thursday in office, the city&rsquo;s 50-member City Council is also marking a milestone: two years under a new mayor.</p><p dir="ltr">At his May 2011 inauguration, Emanuel promised a new dynamic between Chicago&rsquo;s famously powerful mayor and the city&rsquo;s famously compliant City Council.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t a rubber stamp City Council, we don&rsquo;t want (a) Council War,&rdquo; then-mayor-elect Emanuel said in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/aldermen/rahm-emanuel-explains-why-hes-forming-new-political-action-committee">March 2011</a>. &ldquo;I want a council that will be part of the reform agenda and be a partner in that effort.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Emanuel has enjoyed near-unanimous support from aldermen on his key agenda issues. But some aldermen criticize his style of dealing with some especially controversial issues, such as a recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/legal-fight-settled-over-chicago-parking-meters-106877">amendment </a>to the oft-maligned parking meter privatization contract, and his plan to embark upon the largest round of public school <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202">closings </a>in U.S. history.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, a recent <a href="http://www.uic.edu/depts/pols/ChicagoPolitics/City_Council_Report_April2013.pdf">study </a>from the University of Illinois at Chicago shows the average alderman sided with Emanuel 93 percent of the time on divided roll call votes through February 2013. That&rsquo;s compared to 88 percent during former Mayor Richard Daley&rsquo;s last years in office.</p><p dir="ltr">And when you ask aldermen what they like about Emanuel&rsquo;s style, a lot of them point to his regular calls or text messages, whether to chat or discuss policy, as one marked departure from the Daley years that has made dialogue on hot-button issues easier.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;You know, he speaks strongly and carries a big stick,&rdquo; joked 12th Ward Ald. George Cardenas.</p><p dir="ltr">The face of Emanuel&rsquo;s agenda in the council chamber is longtime North Side Ald. Pat O&rsquo;Connor (40th). He is Emanuel&rsquo;s unofficial floor leader &ndash; that is, his aldermanic temperature-taker, nose-counter and - when need be - arm-twister.</p><p dir="ltr">O&rsquo;Connor held the same post under Daley, but says his job has been a lot busier since Emanuel took office two years ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We are more engaged with the City Council on a number of fronts than we were previously, in terms of my role,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor said.</p><p dir="ltr">Daley rarely called aldermen directly, but &nbsp;Emanuel&rsquo;s hands-on style makes rounding up votes easier, O&rsquo;Connor said.</p><p dir="ltr">Consider a recent City Council <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/churches-take-%E2%80%98leap-faith%E2%80%99-emanuel-water-deal-107089">meeting</a>, when aldermen took up a controversial plan to change the way the city charges nonprofits and churches for city water. When his proposal looked to be in danger, Emanuel himself huddled with aldermen and religious leaders near the City Council restrooms, seconds before the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">In the end, the churches got their reassurance, and every alderman voted yes &ndash; even O&rsquo;Connor, who vocally disagreed with the mayor&rsquo;s plan.</p><p dir="ltr">Still, O&rsquo;Connor bristles at the phrase &ldquo;rubber stamp.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s much better, in my opinion, to find areas where we can agree, and exploit them, and use those areas and try and limit the areas where we don&rsquo;t agree,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">But University of Illinois at Chicago political scientist Dick Simpson, a former independent alderman who now researches the city government, says the result is a City Council that is even more compliant than it was at the zenith of the Democratic Machine&rsquo;s power.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Well, what we ended up with is still a rubber stamp City Council,&rdquo; Simpson said.</p><p dir="ltr">But Simpson says that could change in the second half of Emanuel&rsquo;s term, as the city faces tough issues.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Aldermen are being caught between pressures of their communities, and going along with the mayor and having a nice chummy time at City Hall,&rdquo; Simpson said. &ldquo;At some point, over some issue, that may fracture the council.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Heading into his second term, the mayor is already facing several issues that could peel away some of his City Council support.</p><p dir="ltr">He&rsquo;s pushing an amendment to the wildly unpopular parking meter contract, trying to anticipate summer gun violence, and facing the Chicago Public Schools board vote on closing 54 schools next week.</p><p dir="ltr">Even some of the mayor&rsquo;s City Council allies, like 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, say they sometimes don&rsquo;t feel listened to, especially over school closings.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Sometimes when you go toward that target, and you just focusing, you miss all of the things on the side and in the back of you,&rdquo; Burnett said, referring to Emanuel&rsquo;s pursuit of school closings despite community opposition.</p><p dir="ltr">Simpson says the mayor will tweak his agenda if aldermen make enough noise, as they did about his initial proposal to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-backs-some-unpopular-budget-ideas-93778">cut library hours</a> and his changes to protest ordinances leading up to last year&rsquo;s NATO summit.</p><p dir="ltr">But Emanuel rarely changes direction entirely on big issues. And when it comes to opposition from everyday Chicagoans, Simpson says don&rsquo;t expect a phone call.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;He&rsquo;s not very good at actual democracy,&rdquo; Simpson said. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s not good at asking people what should happen, and building a consensus. He&rsquo;s good at saying, &lsquo;This is what I did for you this week.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Alex Keefe is a political reporter for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/akeefe">@akeefe</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 16 May 2013 07:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/midterm-emanuel-still-cozy-city-council-107199 Chicago firefighters asked to guard school routes http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-firefighters-asked-guard-school-routes-107172 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/fire_smaedli.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago firefighters are being asked to establish a visible presence on the streets during the first three weeks of the new school year, when dozens of schools are slated to close.</p><p>The closures have parents worried that many children will have to traverse dangerous areas to get to their new schools. The school district and police have been working to create safe routes.</p><p>Now firefighters have been asked to help.</p><p>Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago says in memo that &quot;during specific hours of the day, all companies will be on the routes.&quot;</p><p>The idea is to make parents and children feel safe.</p><p>But the firefighters union is concerned that if violence breaks out its members could be thrust into a role for which they are not trained or equipped.</p></p> Wed, 15 May 2013 09:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-firefighters-asked-guard-school-routes-107172 Englewood seeks celebrity help to keep school open near urban garden http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-seeks-celebrity-help-keep-school-open-near-urban-garden-107120 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/jennifer hudson school_130510_nm (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Students at Yale Elementary enjoy spring weather during recess. Laughter wafts from the playground. Girls in school uniforms chat in the grass, away from younger students.</p><p>Next to the school, on 70th Street and Princeton Avenue, is a vast garden, larger than most backyard gardens. Adult volunteers massage the soil to plant daffodils the color of bright sunshine.</p><p>In the summer, this mini-farm&mdash;with the help of children&mdash;will grow tomatoes, greens and dill. The garden is called Eat to Live, and the kids even learn a little bit about urban agriculture and healthy eating in the classroom. Across the street from the garden there&rsquo;s land that will become an urban farm this summer. Eat to Live Englewood will provide residents with a permanent space for food production, community learning and disease prevention education. The goal is to reduce health disparities.</p><p>But Yale is slated to close at the end of the academic year as part of the Chicago Public Schools controversial plan to shutdown 54 schools.</p><p>Pushback against school closings is familiar. Many communities champion their neighborhood school as unique. They argue that a one-size-fits-all policy shouldn&rsquo;t be used to shut their school down. That&rsquo;s true for parents at Yale Elementary School. They say the school&rsquo;s urban garden fits right in with a burgeoning focus on urban agriculture in the larger Englewood community.</p><p>Parts of the Englewood neighborhood are in a food desert. Alisa Ivory&rsquo;s two children attend Yale and she toils in the garden. She and garden neighbor Demetria Scott chat about healthy food and the impact the garden has had on their lives and their childrens&rsquo;.</p><p>&quot;We are some junk food junkies,&quot; Ivory says. &quot;And now my idea is turning away from a lot of junk food. Because that&rsquo;s what it is - junk for your body.&quot;</p><p>&quot;We went to Aldi&rsquo;s one day up the street, Michael was like can we get some plain yogurt and some granola. And some bananas. And I said oh, yeah, Michael, we can get that,&quot; Scott says.</p><p>Behind the garden, on the next street over, is a ghostly boarded-up home. It&rsquo;s the house singer and actress Jennifer Hudson grew up in&mdash;and where members of her family were killed several years ago.</p><p>Hudson attended Yale Elementary. As part of its large restructuring plan, Chicago Public Schools is proposing to close Yale and move its students to Harvard Elementary, about a mile away. Both schools are on the bottom of CPS academic ratings in a poverty-stricken neighborhood.</p><p>Yvette Moyo is the director of Real Men Charities, which started the Yale Eat to Live garden. At one of the school closing hearings, Moyo revealed an idea.</p><p>&ldquo;At the microphone I said, you could have called Jennifer Hudson and asked her is there something you want to do in the area that you grew up in and an area where tragedy took place. Would you like to see it come back to life again and would you play a role in it,&rdquo; Moyo recalls.</p><p>Moyo just learned that Hudson&rsquo;s representatives declined her request. But she figures there are other Chicagoans who might like to help make an urban agriculture elementary school. Quincy Jones, maybe, or Lupe Fiasco, Common, or R. Kelly.&nbsp;</p><p>The city of Chicago is invested in reducing food instability around the neighborhood.</p><p>That&rsquo;s a big reason Moyo doesn&rsquo;t want Yale to close.</p><p>&quot;The vision we&rsquo;ve given to the children for two years is that they&rsquo;re at the cutting edge of everything Chicago will be in the future and that is a part of an urban agriculture movement that not will only provide jobs but businesses for them and their parents, which is what&rsquo;s really missing - the opportunity to be fruitful and to provide for families and communities,&quot; Moyo says. &quot;When we talk about underemployment and the level of literacy the dropout rate of the parents even. This is something that we can provide for the community. And we kind of promised that we&rsquo;ll be there for them, that they have added value by working in the Eat to Live Garden.&quot;</p><p>The school garden at Yale is heading into its second season.</p><p>Moyo says even if Yale closes at the end of the school year, plans for all the farms will continue.</p><p>And she says that&rsquo;s why she&rsquo;ll be going after other groups to help keep the school open.</p><p>So Moyo says she&rsquo;ll keep writing letters to celebrities, and holding onto the garden&rsquo;s mantra: &quot;Everything Good Grows in Englewood.&quot;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 09:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/englewood-seeks-celebrity-help-keep-school-open-near-urban-garden-107120 Full audio: Chicagoans react to school closings proposals at scores of public meetings http://www.wbez.org/news/full-audio-chicagoans-react-school-closings-proposals-scores-public-meetings-106670 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/closingmeeting_topper.jpg" title="From left: CPS officials look onto an empty auditorium at the Armstrong-May-Leland hearing, which the community and parents boycotted; a sign announces a school closings meeting; a King Elementary kindergartner asks CPS officials not to close her school. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></p><p>Chicago is holding more than 190 community meetings and public hearings this spring&mdash;all <a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?GAID=11&amp;SessionID=84&amp;GA=97&amp;DocTypeID=SB&amp;DocNum=630&amp;LegID=55459&amp;SpecSess=&amp;Session=" target="_blank">required by law</a>&mdash;to gather feedback on its <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202" target="_blank">proposal to close an unprecedented 54 schools</a>. The district also has proposed six school turnarounds (complete re-staffings that also turn the school over to the private nonprofit manager Academy for Urban School Leadership), and 11 &ldquo;co-locations&rdquo; where 23 schools would share space in 11 buildings. See a list of all proposals <a href="http://www.cps.edu/qualityschools/documents/Overviewproposedschoolandprogramclosures.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools contracted with a vendor to record <a href="http://www.cps.edu/qualityschools/pages/myvoice.aspx" target="_blank">public meetings</a> that took place between April 6 and April 15 in affected communities. Through an open records request, WBEZ obtained those audio files and has posted them to this site. Additionally, WBEZ is recording public hearings held at CPS headquarters (April 16-May 2) on the proposed closings, turnarounds and co-locations and posting that audio here as well.</p><p>We encourage our listeners to help flag the most interesting moments in these hearings by &quot;commenting&quot; directly on the audio. (It&rsquo;s cool and helpful for other listeners!)</p><p><strong>Here&rsquo;s how to comment:</strong> Click on a particular hearing. When you hear something you&rsquo;d like to flag, pause the audio. A comment bar will appear just below the sound waves.&nbsp; You don&rsquo;t need to have an account or be signed in to comment.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="800" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F4863959&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Tue, 16 Apr 2013 11:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/full-audio-chicagoans-react-school-closings-proposals-scores-public-meetings-106670 Which comes first? Closed schools or blighted neighborhoods? http://www.wbez.org/news/which-comes-first-closed-schools-or-blighted-neighborhoods-105511 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="350" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&amp;msid=205386033664818854506.0004d5fa0f15b921f1be3&amp;gl=us&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;t=h&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.780998,-87.654531&amp;panoid=LOaZ2oEDUvvHyeJ5d0gzHA&amp;cbp=13,357.16,,0,-3.85&amp;source=embed&amp;ll=34.903953,-87.626953&amp;spn=25.127148,54.492187&amp;z=4&amp;output=svembed" width="620"></iframe></p><div class="caption"><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&amp;msid=205386033664818854506.0004d5fa0f15b921f1be3&amp;gl=us&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;t=h&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.780998,-87.654531&amp;panoid=LOaZ2oEDUvvHyeJ5d0gzHA&amp;cbp=13,357.16,,0,-3.85&amp;source=embed&amp;ll=34.903953,-87.626953&amp;spn=25.127148,54.492187&amp;z=4">The above Google Street View map</a> of Chicago&#39;s Englewood community shows Woods Academy on the left. It was identified as a potential CPS closure last week. Many of the surrounding properties on Racine Avenue, including the ones pictured on the right, are either vacant lots or abandoned properties.</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The image above gives a glimpse of what students walking up Racine Avenue on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side pass on their way to Woods Academy: block after block of boarded up buildings and overgrown vacant lots.</p><p>The blight surrounding Woods Academy, a Chicago public school in Englewood, is a common scene outside many other neighborhoods on the city&rsquo;s South and West Sides. &nbsp;</p><p>Woods Academy was one of 129 schools flagged last week when CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/more-20-percent-city-public-schools-list-potential-closure-105519"> announced that nearly 20 percent of the city&#39;s 681 schools are eligible for closure</a>.</p><p>The release of the school names has started another round of debates as the potential closures were more acute in neighborhoods already grappling with economic and violent crime issues, specifically the Austin, Humboldt Park, South Shore, Englewood, West Englewood and North Lawndale communities.</p><p>Many neighborhoods on the North, Northwest, and Southwest Sides were unaffected, with some of those communities having no schools at risk for closures.</p><p>The crux of the CPS rationale for closing the schools is the notion of underutilized schools. The district claims that many of the schools operate below their originally-intended capacities, which could translate into higher costs to maintain large facilities.</p><p>Analysis of census data suggests that the areas most affected by the potential closures have experienced dramatic drops in population over the past few decades.</p><p>Some may argue the population decline was a symptom of inadequate schools, limited access to mass transit, struggling local economies and a disproportionate amount of Chicago&#39;s violent crime, exacerbated by gang and drug problems.</p><p>The cocktail of social and economic problems has led to a drastic real estate decline in the affected areas. The communities have higher amounts of foreclosures, decreased property values, abandoned buildings and properties the city demolished. (The city has a process to raze buildings as they become safety hazards from disrepair or magnets for crime and drug trade.)</p><p>WBEZ has compiled reports of abandoned properties, city-owned vacant lots, community area census figures from the city&#39;s data portal site and juxtaposed them to the locations of the potential school closures.</p><p>The result: The areas with the most possible school closures are almost a 1:1 match against communities with the most distressed real estate.&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="300" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;q=5947+South+Peoria+Street,+Chicago,+IL&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=5947+S+Peoria+St,+Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois+60621&amp;gl=us&amp;t=h&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.785566,-87.647343&amp;panoid=eu45GpqHulyfqnkcfsOEUw&amp;cbp=13,242.56,,0,3.73&amp;source=embed&amp;ll=41.780065,-87.647381&amp;spn=0.019201,0.053215&amp;z=14&amp;output=svembed" width="620"></iframe></p><div class="caption"><a href="https://maps.google.com/maps?client=safari&amp;oe=UTF-8&amp;q=5947+South+Peoria+Street,+Chicago,+IL&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;hq=&amp;hnear=5947+S+Peoria+St,+Chicago,+Cook,+Illinois+60621&amp;gl=us&amp;t=h&amp;layer=c&amp;cbll=41.785566,-87.647343&amp;panoid=eu45GpqHulyfqnkcfsOEUw&amp;cbp=13,242.56,,0,3.73&amp;source=embed&amp;ll=41.780065,-87.647381&amp;spn=0.019201,0.053215&amp;z=14">The above Google Street View</a> shows a street in the Englewood neighborhood pocked with vacant land plots and abandoned properties. Nicholson Tech Academy is the school on the left of the image. While spared a spot on the possible closure list, it has been previously flagged as underutilized. A large amount of the surrounding properties on Peoria Street are vacant or abandoned. Google&#39;s street cameras appear to have captured a team of contractors working on an abandoned structure on the right of the photo.</div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a name="Abandoned"></a>Abandoned properties</strong></p><p>The map below details properties that were reportedly abandoned, <a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Service-Requests/311-Service-Requests-Vacant-and-Abandoned-Building/7nii-7srd">according to data from the city&#39;s data portal website</a>. &nbsp;Abandoned properties can constantly change, depending on when ownership changes hands. &nbsp;The data are a reflection of reports made by residents through the city&#39;s 311 call center.</p><p>The map below reflects a sampling and not a definitive account of reported abandoned properties from <b>Jan 1, 2012 to Feb 1, 2013</b>. Duplicate reports were removed to get a more accurate measure, however it&#39;s possible that some of the properties could currently be occupied. In fact, some of the reports will indicate if a property is being occupied. Abandoned properties can be illegitimately occupied by vagrants, children or gang members.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Abandoned-key.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><iframe frameborder="0" height="760" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/February/Abandoned_Property_Communities_Vs_Slated_School_Closures/AbandonedProp.html" width="620"></iframe></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong><a name="Vacant"></a>Vacant lots owned by the city</strong></p><p>The city of Chicago owns thousands of properties, including office buildings, parks, industrial buildings, schools and parking lots. &nbsp;</p><p>The following is a compilation of &quot;<a href="https://data.cityofchicago.org/Community-Economic-Development/City-Owned-Land-Inventory/aksk-kvfp">city-owned land inventory</a>.&quot; &nbsp;Like the previous map, it reflects a snapshot, not an updated record, of largely vacant lots owned by the city of Chicago. Most used to be private residences or businesses that were razed.</p><p>The number of properties changes hands and is updated so frequently it is difficult to have a accurate database of properties that are vacant and without development.</p><p>However, the following map offers a sufficient indicator when paired against Google&#39;s satellite imagery. &nbsp;Some of the empty lots may have been recently sold and can show newly constructed structures. Some properties were turned into parks, urban gardens, parking lots, etc.</p><p>It&#39;s important to indicate that Cook County handles the transfer of deeds regarding properties and that this map is a reflection of city data that does not necessarily correlate (effectively talk) with data from Cook County.</p><p>Last year, the city of Chicago <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&amp;id=8734189">began demolishing abandoned properties</a> they believed to be magnets for crime. Those properties are also included in the data set below.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/VacantLot-key.jpg" title="" /><br /><iframe frameborder="0" height="760" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/February/Abandoned_Property_Communities_Vs_Slated_School_Closures/CityOwnedVacantProp.html" width="620"></iframe></div><p><strong><a name="Combo"></a>How does this look?</strong></p><p>When the data sets for abandoned and vacant properties are combined, the map paints a dramatic picture of blight across Chicago. &nbsp;While some of the individual discrepancies are more visible in satellite and street view, the data are mostly accurate in portraying distressed communities, which may now lose many public schools.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/comboMapKey.jpg" title="" /><br /><iframe frameborder="0" height="800" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/February/Abandoned_Property_Communities_Vs_Slated_School_Closures/ComboMap.html" width="620"></iframe></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Population</strong></p><p>The following table shows census figures by community area, utilizing census data from 1990, 2000 and 2010.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="yes" src="https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?viz=GVIZ&amp;t=TABLE&amp;containerId=gviz_canvas&amp;q=select+col1%3E%3E0%2C+col3%3E%3E1%2C+col5%3E%3E0%2C+col3%3E%3E0%2C+col4%3E%3E0+from+19nc6cBjwna4LFasBAB525WlJx4unG9kIZ-IByhI+order+by+col1%3E%3E0+asc" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/which-comes-first-closed-schools-or-blighted-neighborhoods-105511 CPS parent group wants investigation into school closure decision process http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-parent-group-wants-investigation-school-closure-decision-process-105488 <p><p>A Chicago parent group said Tuesday it has filed a complaint against the process Chicago Public Schools administrators use to determine a preliminary list of school closings.<br /><br />The complaint was filed with the office of CPS Inspector General James M. Sullivan, according to a statement released by the group, called Parents 4 Teachers. It is asking for an independent investigation into the procedures used to decide which of the district&rsquo;s schools will be shuttered.<br /><br />&ldquo;Someone from the outside needs to come in and shine a light on what&rsquo;s going on at central office, they need to see what&rsquo;s going on behind closed doors and make that information available to the public,&rdquo; said CPS parent and group co-founder Erica Clark.<br /><br />Sullivan&rsquo;s office could not be reached for comment or to confirm if they had received the complaint.<br /><br />At a news conference Tuesday, Clark alleged that the CPS-appointed commission tasked with reviewing utilization of district schools is &ldquo;fraught&rdquo; with conflicts of interest.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7003_IMG_0719-scr.JPG" style="height: 225px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="CPS family member Windy Pearson speaking at news conference on Tuesday. (Scott Kanowsky/WBEZ)" /></div><p>&ldquo;The so-called &lsquo;independent&rsquo; commission has numerous ties to charter [school] backers. They share the same offices, they&rsquo;re being advised by organizations that are in business to promote charters,&rdquo; Clark said.<br /><br />In a statement, Parents 4 Teachers said the complaint &ldquo;cites instances of employee misconduct, conflicts of interest and misleading the public about the facts on school closings.&rdquo;<br /><br />The group said it is considering filing a similar complaint with the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.<br /><br />In response to these allegations, CPS officials said in a written statement Tuesday that it has 145,000 fewer students enrolled now than it did during the &ldquo;last decade.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;Now CPS has too many empty classrooms and too few students to fill them. This is stretching our limited resources too thin and depriving children at all schools of critical investments they need to be successful such as air-conditioning, playgrounds, technology and computers, librar[ies], art and music,&rdquo; a statement from a CPS spokesperson read.<br /><br />&ldquo;Once CPS combines schools and resources, we will be better positioned to provide every child in our schools with a well-rounded high-quality education they deserve.&rdquo;<br /><br />The district has said it plans to release a preliminary list of school closings on Wednesday. School officials have said CPS is facing a $1 billion dollar budget deficit and needs to close some school buildings in order to &ldquo;right-size&rdquo; the district.<br /><br />However, no one knows exactly how many schools will be closed.<br /><br />Enrollment is expected to play a key role in that decision&mdash;currently, CPS figures indicate that 136 schools are currently half-empty. A CPS spokesperson has said each closed school could save the district $500,000 to $800,000.<br /><br />In January, the CPS-appointed commission charged with recommending closures said high schools, schools with more than 600 students and schools labeled high-performing should be spared.</p></p> Tue, 12 Feb 2013 15:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-parent-group-wants-investigation-school-closure-decision-process-105488