Letter sent to CEO Byrd-Bennett on Space Utilization: 1/2/2013
January 2, 2013
CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett
Chicago Public Schools
125 S. Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60603
Dear Ms. Byrd-Bennett,
are sending this letter because we have made numerous requests through
various staff members at CPS to set up a meeting with you to discuss our
space utilization findings presented at the last CPS board meeting and
have not yet received a response. We also presented to the CEFTF and
at Horner Park space utilization meeting where Frank Clark called our
analysis "excellent" and stated that he does not refute our data
findings at all.
As Chicago parents we are concerned that CPS is
still using a flawed formula that exaggerates underutilization, under-reports overcrowding and ignores other factors
reducing classroom size such as percent of special education students
served and on site community partnerships. We are also deeply
troubled by the lack of transparency in the process that CPS is using to
make decisions around school actions this year.
For months, CPS
and the City have told Chicagoans that our district has too many
underutilized schools requiring it to be “right sized.” In recent
weeks however, numerous sources have refuted the key arguments and data
that have been used to bolster the school closing strategy. As parents
and taxpayers, we deserve facts and an open, honest discussion.
several occasions, you have pledged to rebuild trust in CPS among
parents, teachers and community members. We agree this is a critical
first step toward moving our district forward. To that end, we
respectfully ask for answers to the questions on the attached
sheet prior to the January 23rd
board meeting and a date time we can follow up and meet with you personally.
Raise Your Hand for Illinois Publici Education
Raise Your Hand "Apples to Apples" School Utilization Data Questions
does the CPS utilization formula continue to assume 36 students as
the maximum limit allowed in a homeroom when determining a school’s
utilization rate, despite the class size guidelines of 28 to 31
students? By using this formula, CPS has claimed that 330 of our schools
are underutilized and 140 are half-empty. We do not believe this
reflects the reality as it is based on a formula that adds 20% to
recommended class size limits.
2) At the Horner Park space
utilization meeting, Frank Clark said that he does not refute our
"Apples to Apples" data and called our analysis "excellent." Will
CPS soon change their formula to reflect these findings, adjust the
numbers they have put out to the press this year, and share corrected
data with major news outlets?
3) Why did CPS exaggerate its
lost enrollment? CPS blames its underutilization on the city’s loss of
145,000 school age children over the last decade. According to a WBEZ
analysis of census data however, CPS lost just 31,500 students
during this period.
Also during this period, CPS created some 50,000 new seats at charter
schools. In 2000, CPS had 432,000 students and 597 schools. This year,
CPS has 403,000 students and 681 schools. The district has added 84
schools during a period of declining enrollment and plans to add another
13 schools next year. This is highly irresponsible and as taxpayers we
are alarmed at these decisions.
4) Does CPS or the School
Utilization Commission plan to do any physical assessments or
walk-throughs of schools labeled underutilized? If so, what is the
5) Many schools have high special education/bilingual
populations which are not taken into account in your utilization formula
and many schools rent out space to community organizations which are
not taken into account. How are the committee and CPS factoring this
into the decision making process?
6) What are the specific
criteria CPS will consider when closing schools this year? In September,
you said utilization would be the only criteria. But in recent weeks,
other CPS representatives, including Becky Carroll and Utilization
Commission Chairman Frank Clark, have said CPS will consider other
factors. Guidelines were due in November 2012, so how can you
change criteria at this later time?
7) Please explain the
specific process the School Utilization Commission will use to prepare
its recommendations. You’ve said the commission will be preparing a list
of schools for closure. But it's been reported that the commission
chair has said it will only be providing a list of policy
recommendations. Please clarify who will report what to the public.
will you provide an analysis of the specific impacts of last
year’s 17school actions on the 7,700 effected students? Any actions
taken in the future should be informed by lessons learned in the past.
Information regarding prior year school actions would be invaluable to
ensure best possible outcomes foraffected students, especially given
that even more schools may be closed this year with no clear vision of
costs and benefits. Parents across the city need totrust and believe you
will ensure the safety and academic stability of students with any