Local School Council members, helped by the Chicago Teachers Union, are asking a Cook County court to intervene before the Chicago Board of Education votes on 17 proposed school closures and "turnarounds" later this month.
Members of nine local councils for schools slated to close or be subject to the CPS tunaround process filed a lawsuit Thursday morning, seeking to block the board's vote. The plaintiffs say the Chicago Public Schools' method for selecting schools to be closed, consolidated or turned around is discriminatory and has disproportionately affected low-income African-American students.
A previous version of this story that stated the Chicago Teachers Union filed the lawsuit was incorrect. The union is only providing legal help for the plaintiffs in the case.
The court action came one day after the teachers union filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday, alleging that layoffs last summer targeted tenured African-American teachers who represent a third of CPS teachers.
The complaint states that African-American teachers make up 29 percent of teachers in CPS, but comprised 43 percent of those laid off in 2011, which was about 1,000 teachers. While white teachers make up 47 percent of the district's total, they represented only 36 percent of those laid off. CPS officials dispute those statistics.
In addition, the union says, layoffs affected a disproportionately large percentage of teachers at schools with high numbers of low-income African-American students.
"(CPS) is illegally terminating and laying off African-American teachers who are highly qualified and excellent teachers," said union attorney Robin Potter. "This is not a question. It is a systematic effort to rid the Chicago Public Schools of tenured teachers who are African-American.
"To make it right they have to stop these layoffs, they have to step back and they have to put these good teachers back in the schools."
CPS officials disputes the union’s findings. In a statement released Wednesday night, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said “the layoff process was agreed upon by (union) leadership under the terms of our current collective bargaining agreement and is consistent with state law.
“CPS does not target any group for layoffs, and it is impossible to target any group for any such action. Most teachers subject to layoffs find another teaching position within CPS.”
Regarding the lawsuit to halt the board’s vote, Carroll said, “We can no longer accept a status quo that has failed our children year after year … it would be an injustice to not take action on these low performing schools.”
The teachers union is embroiled in another lawsuit currently before the Illinois Supreme Court over the layoff of about 1,300 teachers, more than 60 percent of them tenured, in 2010. The teachers union has argued that the district broke state law in firing tenured teachers without due process. Both sides are awaiting the ruling.