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Fired Black educators reach $9.25M settlement with CPS

About 413 teachers and paraprofessionals may be eligible for compensation after CPS and the teachers union opted to end a decade-long dispute that was destined for a court trial.

The CPS Board of Education is set to vote on the funds transfer Wednesday.
The CPS Board of Education is set to vote on a settlement Wednesday.
Sun-Times files

Ending nearly a decade of litigation, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have reached a $9.25 million settlement over the layoffs of entire school staffs that disproportionately affected hundreds of Black educators on the South and West sides.

About 413 teachers and paraprofessionals may be eligible for compensation after the two sides opted to end the dispute that was destined for a court trial in at least one of two federal rights lawsuits.

The cases stemmed from several rounds of layoffs at 18 schools from 2012 to 2014 under a so-called “turnaround” policy which targeted schools that had been put on probation due to substandard test scores and attendance. Many of those schools were in Black communities, and an uneven number of Black educators lost their jobs. The teachers were directed to apply for new jobs at CPS, but not all were re-hired.

Racial diversity in the teaching ranks has been a source of strife ever since, with the district in the past couple years acknowledging and beginning to address the issue through various recruitment efforts, though barely a dent has been made.

Despite white students making up 10.9% of CPS’ enrollment this year, 48.8% of the district’s teachers are white. Meanwhile 35.8% of students are Black, compared to 20.7% of teachers. Latinos make up 46.7% of student enrollment yet only 22.3% of the teacher force.

In 2006, about 33% of CPS teachers were Black, according to an earlier ruling by Judge Sara Ellis who cleared one of the lawsuits for trial earlier this year.

The Board of Education is expected to vote on the settlement at its monthly meeting Wednesday. Then the board and union will present the agreement to the federal judge overseeing the lawsuit for approval.

“Resolving this matter is in CPS students’ best interest and will allow the district to move forward with its continued focus on providing a high quality education that is grounded in equity for students in every city neighborhood. As a District, we will continue efforts to recruit and retain a diverse faculty that reflects our student population,” CPS said in a statement.

The CTU said the agreement would allow “impacted teachers and staff [to] receive some compensation for the harm that was done to them,” adding the union has “fought for increased funding for schools, adequate staffing and fair treatment of all teachers, regardless of race.”

The district did not admit wrongdoing, and CTU and the affected teachers must drop their claims as a condition of the settlement. A different lawsuit with similar allegations stemming from a round of layoffs in 2011 was dismissed last year by a federal judge who found the sackings adversely affected the group of teachers, but not because of discriminatory practices by CPS.

The Board of Education will pay $1.7 million toward the settlement while the board’s insurance will cover the rest, officials said.

About $4 million of the settlement amount is set to go toward attorney fees and court costs, while the 413 teachers would split the remaining $5.25 million according to a court-approved formula that would determine each person’s share. The average plaintiff would receive about $12,700.