Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Remember, Rahm & Byrd-Bennett promised big cost savings from closed schools?

They lied about closing costs.
In March, 2013, our CReATE research group issued a Research Brief  which focused on the threatened mass school closings in Chicago.

In that brief, we warned that CPS was greatly exaggerating promised cost-savings resulting from its school-closing plan. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and her team were telling the media that they would save between $500,000 to $800,000 annually for each school closed and that their closure of 50 schools would result in the savings of millions of dollars that would be "reinvested in the classroom."

We had looked at the impact of closings in other districts like Washington, D.C. where then-Chancellor Michelle Rhee had predicted a $30 million savings. In fact her schools closings had ended up costing the district over $40 million  after factoring in the expense of demolishing buildings, removing furnishings, and transporting students.

We knew that BBB and Rahm were pulling cost-saving numbers out of their ear.

Our research was ignored by Byrd-Bennett and the board, just like the voices of thousands of protesting parents, the Chicago Teachers Union, and community activists were ignored.

From the moment the school-closings were announced in the spring of 2013, critics – including the Chicago Teachers Union – challenged the claims by CPS officials that the closings would free up hundreds of millions of dollars that could then be used to bolster surviving schools.

Now come more news reports showing that more than a year after 49 schools were closed by the Chicago Board of Education, taxpayers are still paying millions of dollars in utilities to heat and light the shuttered buildings. In fact, the utility bills are almost as much as they were when all of those school buildings were open.

NBC5 Investigates has obtained photos taken inside one of those vacant schools, showing extensive vandalism which – according to an internal Chicago Public Schools report – will add at least $12 million more onto the cost to refurbish or repurpose just that one building.

NBC5 reports that,
Chicago taxpayers paid more than $2.2 million throughout the 2013-2014 school year just to provide gas and electricity to dozens of vacant CPS buildings. That compares to the little more than $2.7 million taxpayers paid for those same buildings the previous school year when they were still open.
Vandalism at Ross Elememtary. 
Their investigators also found that theft and vandalism to the boarded-up buildings, further blighting many black and Latino communities, was also costing taxpayers millions. NBC5 Investigates obtained more than 40 photos which reveal a disturbing amount of damage and vandalism at Ross Elementary.
In fact, an internal CPS appraisal of the Ross building -- obtained by NBC5 Investigates in the aftermath of the vandalism – notes that, because of the new damage, "the building … requires extensive renovation and replacement to make it once again operational."
CTU Pres. Jesse Sharkey tells the board,
"Now you essentially own a derelict property."
When reporters asked CPS school-closing chief, (former Marine Col.) Tom Tyrell about vandalized and boarded up school buildings, he basically told them that they were mixing him up with someone who cared or took responsibility for the added expense or further community blight.

More from NBC5:
Even these increased costs of repairing a vandalized building don’t seem to worry Tyrrell. "If we can sell it 'as-is,' then it saves us from having to go back in and do a lot of work to a school to repair vandalism damage," he said. "If … a buyer is going to gut the building anyway …. They don’t really care if it’s been vandalized or not."
But we care, Col. Tyrell. We care.

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