Teachers and staff at African-American public schools in Chicago to receive settlement funds in discrimination lawsuit

In 2012 and 2015, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and three teachers filed lawsuits against the Chicago Board of Education (the Board) challenging the Board’s “turnaround” policies and the firing of hundreds of African teachers and paraprofessionals. Americans, alleging the turnarounds had a disparate racial impact and were a pattern or practice of racial discrimination. The Chicago Teachers’ Union alleged the board targeted schools on the South and West Sides with disproportionately more African-American teachers and staff. All the employees of the reform schools have been laid off. Yesterday, the Court issued an order granting final approval of the $9.25 million settlement of the two lawsuits.

Persons eligible to receive settlement payments are “all African American persons employed by the Chicago Board of Education as teachers or paraprofessionals, as defined in the employment agreement between the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the Board of Education, in any school or attendance center subject to replenishment, or “recovery,” during calendar years 2012, 2013, and/or 2014.”

To receive a settlement payment, Claim Forms must be submitted to the Settlement Administrator by Friday, September 9, 2022. Claim Forms may also be emailed to Attorney Patrick Cowlin at pcowlin@fishlawfirm.com or by fax at 312-205-1702. More information about the case can be found at https://www.fishlawfirm.com/ctu/.

Chicago Public School teachers/paraprofessional staff and the Chicago Teachers Union were represented by Robin Potter and Patrick Cowlin of Fish Potter Bolaños, PC and Randall D. Schmidt of the Edwin F. Mandel Legal Aid Clinic of the University of Chicago Law School.

“This has been an uphill but necessary legal battle and is part of CTU’s determination to ensure that all students and staff have the schools Chicago deserves. The named plaintiffs and other members of CTU have shown great courage throughout this 10-year fight for justice,” said Patrick Cowlin.

From 2006 to present, approximately 34 Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have undergone a “turnaround” by the board, which has fired and replaced all faculty and staff at a school, regardless of their performance. Almost all of the 34 school “turnarounds” occurred in the South Side, Southwest Side, and West Side secondary or elementary school systems, disproportionately affecting African-American teaching and staff. Eighteen (18) of these adjustments took place between 2012 and 2014.

Schools on the north and northwest sides met the board’s criteria for relief, but were not selected. According to the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, the Board’s redress criteria (primarily standardized test scores) had a disparate racial impact and did not actually measure the effectiveness of educators. Rather, the criteria largely reflected the race and income level of the students. Additionally, it would have been better for students and far less discriminatory to invest in schools, teachers, and students instead of laying off an entire school’s faculty and staff—something the Chicago Teachers Union advocated. For years.

Racial segregation in the Chicago public school system is severe and systemic, and has contributed to the disparate impact changes caused by the concentration of African American teachers and staff in schools targeted for turnaround.

The turnarounds are an aspect of many years of school actions disproportionately impacting black teachers, staff and students. From 2001 to 2009, in a practice started by then-CEO Arne Duncan, the board closed about 86 schools. In 2012, he transformed approximately ten (10) schools on the south and west sides of Chicago. In 2013, it closed 49 other schools and transformed five (5) schools. Although the average racial mix of the population of all schools was 41.6% black, 88.6% of the closed schools were black.

CPS’s African-American faculty as a percentage of the overall faculty population has steadily declined from 40.6% in 2000 to 29.6% in 2010. In 2011, African-American faculty comprised approximately 28.7% of the tenured teaching population. As of fall 2014, of CPS’s 22,519 teachers, 24.3% were African American and 49.7% were white. Today, the percentage of African-American teachers is approaching 20%.

The lawsuits alleged that the drastic decline in the number of African American teachers corresponded directly to the intentional actions, policies, and practices of the Chicago Board of Education that eliminated, closed, combined, or reconstituted allegedly underperforming schools in the African American community.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has been an indispensable partner to our firm and our co-counsel during these cases,” Cowlin added. “These teachers and para-professionals have dedicated their lives to educating the children of the community. They deserve our support and they deserve to work in an environment free from prejudice. »

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