Complaint: CPS turnaround effort targets black teachers

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • June 12, 2009 @ 7:00 AM

The Chicago Public Schools' controversial turnaround program unfairly targets African-American teachers, who are laid off at a greater rate than non-minority teachers, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators says in a federal complaint.

 “Turnaround schools are depriving students of the benefit of experience and knowledge of African-American teachers,” says Carol Caref, the treasurer of CORE.

CORE submitted the complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The complaint could eventually lead to a federal lawsuit against the Chicago Public Schools, says Jennifer Purcell, an attorney representing the teachers caucus.

The turnaround program replaces the entire staff of troubled schools with new teachers and administrators. At some turnaround schools, test scores have climbed. But some parents and teachers have demanded a halt to the program, saying it's disruptive and harmful to students.

Purcell says the impact on black teachers is no accident.

 “This is not just coincidental,” Purcell says.

Board of Education spokeswoman Celeste Garrett declined to comment on the case.

At six of the schools that were shut down after the 2007-2008 school year, more than half of the teachers before the turnarounds were African-American. So when the entire staffs of those schools were laid off as part of the turnaround, African-Americans were hit disproportionately hard, Purcell says.

In a 42-page filing, Purcell produced pages of statistical calculations showing how blacks had been laid off at a much faster rate than non-minority teachers.

Though CPS often hired some younger African-American teachers when the schools reopened, that’s beside the point, Caref and Purcell say.

“What CPS is doing is they’re basically getting rid of veteran teachers that cost them more money because they’re at the higher end of the pay scale and replacing them with new teachers,” Caref says.

CORE called the turnarounds “insidious and Draconian” for the way they put experienced teachers out of work because of the too-low test scores at the schools being shut down. There are 2,000 fewer black teachers at CPS now than there were in 2002, when the turnarounds started, the group says.

It may be several months before anything happens with the complaint, which must be reviewed by a federal investigator. The EEOC could decide to launch its own lawsuit or could give CORE permission to do that, Purcell says.

“The more people who can call us or talk to us about who they are and how they were impacted by the turnaround, the more detail we can get,” Purcell says.


Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.