The [Friday] Papers
"Making the case to close Ericson Academy on the West Side, Chicago Public Schools officials stressed that it would cost $9.6 million to fix the 51-year-old building. What they didn't point out in materials provided to parents was that they planned to spend nearly as much this summer on repairs to Sumner Elementary, where Ericson students would be reassigned," the Tribune reports.
"District officials said one downside of Calhoun Elementary, also slated for closing, was its lack of air conditioning in every classroom. Yet records that were not part of the district's presentation on closings show the designated replacement school, Cather Elementary, would require the installation of 33 window units to bring cooling to every room.
"Mayor Rahm Emanuel's controversial push to close 53 elementary schools, set to be voted on by the school board next week, has been accompanied by a blizzard of numbers and assertions aimed at demonstrating the cutbacks are prudently crafted and financially wise for a system in fiscal distress.
"But a Tribune review of documents related to the closings raises questions about how CPS used information to promote and defend its plan. In many cases, the district appears to have selectively highlighted data to stress shortcomings at schools to be closed, while not pointing out what was lacking at the receiving schools.
"In fact, total renovations to several of the schools slated to take in students would cost millions of dollars more than the estimated cost of fixing up the buildings where those children are currently enrolled, records show."
I would say this is astonishing if it weren't so unsurprising. CPS has lied - let's not be afraid to use that word - about school closings at nearly every turn. To wit:
* CPS Tries To Hide Acknowledgement That It Overestimated Supposed Savings From Schools Closings By A Whopping $122 Million. (And that was before today's Trib report.)
And that's just a sampling.
From the Trib:
"But parents and teachers at some schools on the closing list have accused CPS of spreading misinformation about their facilities. Michelle Rose, the grandmother of three students at Ericson, was furious when CPS sent a flier home contending that the school lacked the science and computer labs like ones promised at Sumner. This summer's work at Sumner is only a start; the district estimates complete renovations will run a total of $24.5 million.
"We have two computer labs, two mobile computer labs, we have a science lab, we have two pre-K classrooms, so I don't know why no one saw this," said Rose, a volunteer at the school.
(See also Linda Lutton's report for WBEZ on the Ericson math teacher who discovered that CPS can't add.)
That's par for the course. CPS officials don't seem to know their own district. Or they aren't willing to let the facts get in the way of their plan.
"Take the officer who oversaw the public hearing on closing Delano Elementary," WBEZ reported. "Delano is not on probation. The proposed receiving school, Melody, is on probation - a fact CPS had not mentioned in its presentation before the hearing officer.
"Such an omission gives credence to those who believe the process is flawed," the hearing officer wrote in his report.
Here's a fact: CPS is basing the largest mass school closing in U.S. history on faulty facts.
(And remember: It's not that hearing officers found that "just" 14 of the 54 proposed school closings were based on flawed premises, but that just 14 hearing officers had the guts to say it.)
It's also quite clear that CPS officials are willfully misleading the public. Take $165,000-a-year communications director Becky Carroll, who is trying harder to sell whoppers than Burger King.
Last month, Carroll wrote this in a WTTW online chat:
"Regarding Aldermen Fioretti's claim on walks: On average students will walk less than 2 blocks more to their welcoming school then they currently walk to their existing school."
Today, the Tribune agrees with Catalyst:
"Chicago's plan to close 53 elementary schools has created a number of fears for parents, among them that their children might have to walk a significantly greater distance to get to their new schools," the paper reports in a sidebar to its other story.
"District officials have insisted that is overblown. 'For neighborhood students that will not receive transportation, the average increase in distance from their home to their school building will be less than two blocks,' says a 'Fact Check' statement released by Chicago Public Schools several weeks ago.
"The database used by CPS to calculate that claim, obtained by the Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act, tells a more complicated story.
"For children who aren't eligible for busing, the average walk to a new school in the coming year will be almost twice as far as it is now, increasing from about a third of a mile to nearly six-tenths of a mile, the data show."
This is madness. It has to stop.
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Posted on May 17, 2013
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