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PUSH considers making a federal case out of CPS school closings

The Rev. Jesse Jacksmeets mediafter speaking School Board meeting Wednesday. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

The Rev. Jesse Jackson meets the media after speaking at the School Board meeting Wednesday. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 28, 2013 2:17PM

Angered over recently-approved school closing plans, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition officials said Friday they hope to convince the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate resource inequities within Chicago Public Schools, including a policy that “starves’’ struggling schools of repair dollars.

Comments by CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley that CPS will not put construction dollars into schools that appear headed for closure in five or 10 years “just makes the case’’ of how unfairly CPS resources are divided. PUSH’s Janette Wilson said.

Such a practice “starves the schools and causes schools to fail even more, which gives [CPS] the basis for saying `We have to do something,’’’ said Wilson, a reverend, attorney and PUSH education director.

PUSH is contemplating filing a complaint with both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education, headed by former Chicago Schools CEO Arne Duncan, over resource disparities, Wilson said. Plus, it is examining legal and legislative ways to bring Chicago an elected school board, rather than one appointed by the mayor.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, PUSH’s founder, said an elected school board would have listened more carefully to public speakers at Wednesday’s school board meeting. Board members appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel instead “sat there reading papers while we were talking’’ and then voted “unanimously,’’ like “a rubber stamp,’’ Jackson said.

School Board member Mahalia Hines told reporters after Wednesday’s vote to shakeup 17 schools that she personally visited targeted schools and would have voted the same way even if she was elected. Board President David Vitale said board members “constantly asked for responses’’ from CPS staff about what they had heard from the community.

CPS officials insist they have put academic resources into targeted schools for years. However, several schools complained of being sabotaged by the loss of teachers and programs and by a revolving door of CPS-imposed administrators and curriculums. “You set us up for failure,’’ said one teacher at Marquette Elementary, which is on its third principal since 2010.

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