June 10th, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators(CORE) filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that school "turnarounds," a "Renaissance 2010" policy, have a disparate impact on African American teachers. Teachers who filed the charges contend that African American teachers suffer a disproportionately adverse impact as a result of the school turnarounds.
The charges filed fall under Title VII which prohibits not only overt, obvious, and intentional discrimination, but also practices that are fair in form but discriminatory in operation. Essentially, a "turnaround" constitutes a layoff policy that almost exclusively impacts African American teachers.
Wanda Evans, a teacher who worked at Orr High School for 11 years before it was turned-around, claims that the plan is designed to get rid of senior teachers and replace them with lower-salaried new teachers to save money; "I’m completely offended by the way veteran teachers have been treated, it’s like a fast food special, let’s get a 2 for 1." Ms. Evans has been nominated for Golden Apple and DRIVE teaching awards and now feels "swept right out of the door."
Lois Ashford, a member of CORE’s steering committee, taught at Copernicus Elementary for sixteen years before losing her job to the "turnaround" process. "In my professional opinion, Ren2010 has been a disaster for everyone concerned: parents who have been left out of decision-making, students who are forced out of stable educational environments in their neighborhoods, and minority teachers who are being disenfranchised at an alarming rate for no other reason than they’ve taught for over 10 years."
For Karen Lewis, a teacher and co-chair of CORE, the turnarounds have undermined an entire sector of black teachers in the Chicago Public Schools. "Since the beginning of the year, I’ve met black teachers who are working as substitutes. They are in tears, not just about the loss of their jobs but also about the loss of their status in the community. These school and position closings are insidious and Draconian. They are based on only one measurement — test scores — which say more about socio-economic status than they do about teaching and learning."
"Turnaround" is a program where everyone at a school is fired, including teachers, cafeteria staff, administration, and every other employee on site. This program is a part of "Renaissance 2010" which is Mayor Daley’s program to overhaul the Chicago Public Schools through privatization and destabilization of the city’s schools.
CORE researchers, looking at statistics compiled by the Illinois State Board of Education, concluded that since 2002, when the term "Renaissance Schools" was first used in relation to the closing of Dodge, Terrell and Williams elementary schools, the percentage of African American teachers in CPS has dropped from 39.4 to 31.6. Currently, there are 2,000 fewer Black teachers working in CPS than there were in 2002.