CPS Fuzzy Math?

On the CPS School Action guidelines, released Oct. 31, 2012, submitted by Raise Your Hand board member and Austin neighborhood community leader, Dwayne Truss 

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) just released draft guidelines for "School Actions" as required by state law.  

After reviewing, I have to take exception to the claim that the CPS community engagement process resulted in adding the space utilization criteria.

CPS poorly attempted a facade of community engagement in the drafting of the 2012 "School Actions Guidelines" by providing a confusing online survey for the public to comment on the 2011 guidelines, and organizing orchestrated "private" community roundtable meetings in which select participants were only given 24 to 48 hour notices of the meetings.

During our roundtable meeting at Malcolm X College, the participants were unanimous against using space utilization as a criteria for school actions. CPS has been touting under-utilization since the teachers strike was resolved. The CPS utilization formula was not presented and not discussed. There was no opportunity to discuss utilization and alternative uses of school buildings.

We were asked to use keypads to vote on a range of recommended ideas to improve schools or what criteria would we improve. The number of recommendations ranged from 7 to 10 recommendations. We had to vote on what we agreed would be the most important recommendation. Some of us pointed out to the consultant hired by CPS that PreK-8 schools dealt with different issues than high schools.

The roundtable discussion was clearly set up by CPS to produce the result that CPS wanted and use the participants at the roundtable meetings.

To further the discussion about utilization, I was recently taken on tours of Horatio May, Oscar De Priest, Louis Armstrong, Francis Scott Key, and Spencer Technology schools by Local School Council (LSC) members. Much of the CPS utilization reports contained inaccurate data.

May School has an annex which is separate from the main building. The primary grades (K-3) are housed in the annex. The primary grades uses all 8 rooms in the annex. If May were to close the annex and move the primary students to the main building, Mays' utilization increases from 45% to 55% based on CPS's utilization formula. However, each school may use Title 1 funds to reduce class size. I do not have the exact class sizes of each school, but, May might have purchased additional teachers with Title 1 funds to "effectively utilized" the main building. It is an example like this that CPS is not considering as unique circumstances for each school. CPS can chose to eliminate the physically separate annexes of schools to reduce capacity.

Also the YMCA uses 6 classrooms of the third floor of the newer section of May. If the primary grades were move to the building, the YMCA would have to move out. Because the YMCA ceased recreation and programming at its former facility at Central and Race, Austin could potentially and totally lose the valued resources the YMCA provides.

Spencer School per the CPS Space Utilization Report is 66% utilized. Based upon our count, Spencer has 51 classrooms, not 54 per CPS. This increases Spencer's utilization to 71%.

CPS gives each school one ancillary (labs, parent resource room, meeting space) use of a classroom for every four classrooms. Spencer is allocated 13 classrooms for ancillary use, but, Spencer is only using 5 rooms for ancillary use. Therefore Spencer is using 8 of its allocated ancillary classrooms for actual classrooms. Spencer-like May School- might also be using its' Title 1 funds to reduce class size. With CPS formula of 30 children per classroom, is CPS stating that using Title 1 funds to reduce class size in communities serving students from improvised, high crime, high unemployment communities a "bad thing?" Spencer-I know my analysis is not CPS policy-is "effectively using" its' space.

Key School is listed with having 24 classrooms housed in 2 separate buildings. The LSC member and me counted 21 classrooms between the 2 buildings. Like Spencer, Key is "effectively using" its space. Based on the CPS formula, Key can use 5 classrooms for ancillary use. Key is only using 3 classrooms for ancillary use. Therefore, Key is using more classrooms for instruction then CPS allows. We recalculated Keys' utilization to 64% not 55%. Key like Spencer is "effectively using" the space in the building for classroom instruction.

In summation, CPS is attempting to manufacture a crises that does not exist. CPS is not discussing the fact that the mayor wants to open an additional 60 charter schools over 5 years. How can CPS cite excess capacity, but, yet CPS plans charter school expansion. There are plenty of tax dollars sitting in the TIF fund which can prevent massive school closings.

Also noted is CPS misuse of the word the word "quality." CPS believes that ACT/KIPP, a level 3 performing charter school operator, is a quality option for the Austin community. If CPS is concerned about excess capacity, ACT/KIPP should be the first school on the closing list.

We must also demand that CPS redirect the additional funds allocated to the unproven private operator of turnaround schools, Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL), be redirected to neighborhood schools.

We all must demand of CPS to provide the itemized costs (heat, electricity, engineer, and principal) of operating each building. 

In summation, CPS calculation of school utilization is another manufactured justification to provide African-American students with privatized substandard low cost education while providing additional funds to magnet and selective enrollment schools. These schools are primarily located in upper middle class neighborhoods.

It is interesting that magnet and selective enrollment schools receive an additional $135,000 to $254,000 from CPS. What kind of math is that!

Dwayne Truss 
austin_youth@sbcglobal.net

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