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Citing Race Discrimination, Chicago Teachers Union Sues Over Layoffs

The Chicago Public Schools' recent rounds of layoffs have disproportionately affected African-American teachers, the Chicago Teachers Union alleges in a class action filed this week.

Even though black teachers make up less than 30 percent of the teaching force, they were hardest hit by the layoffs, the lawsuit states. For example, of the 347 tenured teachers laid off in 2012, 51 percent were African-American.

In the lawsuit filed Dec. 27, the union says that the district's "turnaround" efforts, which involve the replacement of up to every teacher in a school so designated—and sometimes the conversion of the school into a charter—are to blame for the disproportional layoffs. Those schools have been located on the city's west and south sides, where many African-American teachers work. And the district's process for selecting the schools for turnaround isn't transparent or clear, the union contends.

The lawsuit seeks a moratorium on turnarounds and the implementation of "less discriminatory alternatives."

The CTU has long been opposed to turnarounds, which threaten its membership numbers as well as longstanding perks like seniority. But the policy has also been controversial among teachers, students, and communities.

The lawsuit could have national implications, too, given that Chicago's turnaround program was the basis of the federal School Improvement Grants, under which "turnaround" is one of the four allowable options.

We'll wait to see how the district responds.

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