March 6, 2013
“I want to thank the Commission for their hard work over the past few months, initiating our conversations with families and communities and taking a thorough look at the crisis we are facing. Their report definitively states that the District does, in fact, have a utilization problem. We did not get here overnight, and we are not going to fix everything overnight. But our children deserve for us to work every day to improve their chances to succeed. We are making smart and critical investments in our children’s futures along with the difficult and necessary decisions. We must focus our limited resources on ensuring every child in every neighborhood receives a high quality education in every school.”
CEO, Chicago Public Schools
Background on Commission on School Utilization and Utilization Crisis Facing CPS
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett appointed the independent Commission on School Utilization to begin the District’s engagement efforts with school communities on the front end of the decision-making process in addressing its utilization crisis. In addition to the 10 public hearings held by the Commission, CPS led 29 community meetings across the District and received input from over 20,000 CPS parents, principals, students, teachers, and community members. Based on community feedback, CPS developed a consistent and objective set of criteria to apply to underutilized schools, removing from consideration for closure:
- Underutilized high schools
- Underutilized Level 1 elementary schools
- Elementary schools near efficient utilization (80% utilized or higher)
- Overcrowded elementary schools
- Underutilized elementary schools that are in the process of adding grades and are expected to reach efficient utilization based on enrollment trends
- Elementary schools that currently have a higher enrollment than they did in School Year 2010
- Elementary schools with current student populations above 600 students
- Elementary schools with utilization rates between 70 – 79 percent
- Elementary schools that have been a designated welcoming school in the last 3 years or were part of a co-location last year
- Elementary schools that are .8 miles or further from the next closest neighborhood elementary school
- Elementary schools that are surrounded by efficient or overcrowded schools
- Elementary schools that are sustainable and improving in performance
Two-hundred and one of the District’s 330 underutilized elementary schools are no longer being considered for closure based on community input so far. CEO Byrd-Bennett will take additional community feedback, input from principals and recommendations from the Commission into consideration as she prepares to make her recommendations to the Board of Education before the end of the month.
Following the CEO’s recommendations, CPS will begin another round of community engagement, including two community meetings and one public hearing for each proposed action.
Chicago Public Schools faces $1 billion deficits for each of the next three fiscal years, and the District currently supports over 100,000 empty desks. Underutilized schools often do not have enough resources to provide the kind of supports essential to student success. Principals at these schools have to make difficult decisions about how to best allocate staff and other student resources. These schools are also more likely to have split-grade classrooms, which can impact a principal’s ability to provide students with a well-rounded, high quality education. By consolidating schools, CPS will be able to focus its limited resources to ensure that every Chicago public school student attends a safe, high-quality 21st century school with updated amenities, more individual instruction, and the programs they need to compete and succeed. By redirecting money from underutilized and dilapidated schools, we will free up resources to invest in quality schools, where all students can flourish with the support of a dedicated community, principals, and teachers. These new and improved schools will represent a new day for Chicago Public Schools and, most importantly, a better chance for our students to succeed and thrive.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.