The Chicago Teachers Union has followed through on a threat to sue the Chicago Board of Education, trying to block the board from raising class sizes.
Right now the average is 28 to 31 students per room. The board estimates it can shave about $125 million off a projected $600 million budget deficit by increasing class size to 35 students. The CTU contends the proposal isn't just illegal, but dangerous.
The suit, believed to be the first of its kind, hinges on a municipal code that mandates classrooms provide 20 square feet of floor space per person. The classroom code was passed after the Holy Angels School fire that killed 92 students in 1958.
If the district does increase the class size to 35, that means district classrooms (with one teacher) would need to be 720 feet. The suit will include affidavits from teachers who have measured their classrooms and found them to be smaller than what would be required by law.
"I was in a school today where there's a capacity level in the auditorium, every school in the city of Chicago should have a capacity level in them," said Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart. "We need that sorely."
Stewart is also trying to retain her position as president of the union in a runoff election Friday against Karen Lewis. Stewart said the process for this lawsuit started some time ago, and it was not "a political stunt."
CPS spokesperson Monique Bond says that more than 90 percent of CPS schools are code compliant.
"No student or learning environment will be compromised," she said.
Bond says the class size proposal is just a proposal and that the board will continue to evaluate options as it faces budget shortfalls.