Chicago aldermen on Thursday echoed teachers' anxiety over rumors of Chicago Public Schools' plan to shutter dozens of underperforming or under-utilized schools in order to finance teachers' new contracts and called for public hearings on the matter.
The Chicago Tribune reports that 32 City Council members signed on to a resolution sponsored by Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) that called for more transparency in rumored discussions that some sources allege could shutter as many as 120 of the city's schools.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) commented Thursday that "CPS administration and, to a certain extent, the mayor’s office are playing hide the ball" on the matter, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"That’s not acceptable," Sawyer continued, according to the paper. "We are the people who get blamed. If I’m gonna take the heat, I want to know what’s going on. Not letting us know what’s going on shows a blatant disrespect for us as elected officials."
CPS has publicly denied the report of a specific plan to close schools, according to the Tribune.
On the heels of their first strike in 25 years, the Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday announced that its members voted overwhelmingly to formally ratify a new three-year contract that includes both pay raises and the implementation of a new performance evaluation system.
The contract specifically includes 3 percent raises for teachers in its first year, plus 2 percent for two years after that, plus additional increases for experienced teachers as well as teachers who agree to sign on for a fourth year.
But it remains unclear how CPS -- which is reportedly facing a $665 million deficit and recently had its credit downgraded by both Moody's Fitch Ratings -- will pay for the raises. It is also unclear how they will pay for the opening of additional charter schools in the city, another matter contained in the resolution introduced by Fioretti on Thursday.
CTU President Karen Lewis told NBC Chicago she has "still got her boxing gloves" and sees school closings as the union's next battle. Lewis previously referred to the district's closing, phasing out and overhauling of 17 city schools as "education apartheid" in February.
"CPS has been doing school closings for 15 years, and for them to try and say that school closings is a way to pay for the contract is not only ridiculous, it's not true," Lewis continued, according to NBC.