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At the heart of the CTU lawsuit against Chicago Board of Ed: School code '230'

Cook County Judge (and former Chicago Alderman) Thomas R. Allen ruled against a request by the Chicago Teachers Union and parents from 10 closing schools to delay or stop those closings:

…saying the state Legislature never specified in its single sentence spelling out the role of hearing officers in closings that the hearing officers had binding authority over school closure decisions — and they were very specific about a number of other details.

“The Legislature knows what it’s doing,” said Allen, a former Chicago alderman. “If it wanted to hold a gun to the head of the board, it would have added another sentence” to the 2011 law allowing hearing officers to override the schools chief or Board of Education.

In other words, the case came down to whether this bit of school code (105 ILCS 5/34-230 (c) (1) (f)), referred to repeatedly in court as “230,” gave independent hearing officers real power over school closings or not.

(f) Public hearings shall be conducted by a qualified independent hearing officer chosen from a list of independent hearing officers. The general counsel shall compile and publish a list of independent hearing officers by November 1 of each school year. The independent hearing officer shall have the following qualifications:

(1) he or she must be a licensed attorney eligible to practice law in Illinois;

(2) he or she must not be an employee of the Board; and

(3) he or she must not have represented the Board, its employees or any labor organization representing its employees, any local school council, or any charter or contract school in any capacity within the last year.

The independent hearing officer shall issue a written report that summarizes the hearing and determines whether the chief executive officer complied with the requirements of this Section and the guidelines.

The chief executive officer shall publish the report on the district’s Internet website within 5 calendar days after receiving the report and at least 15 days prior to any Board action being taken.

So does the single sentenced (bolded by me) give the hearing officers real power to veto closings? Or doesn’t it?

Allen thought not. He said he believed legislators came up with the procedure because they didn’t trust the way CPS had conducted past school closings. And in legislation so detailed it spelled out who exactly was to be notified of closing hearings and where the notice was to be posted, he believed the lawmakers did include all the directions they found pertinent.

“It tells the school board within specific dates and timelines how they have to roll out these school actions. It holds their feet to the fire,” the judge said before issuing his ruling. “This to me is pretty extraordinary.”