Courtesy Medill News Service

Parents opposed to school closings gathered at Chicago Public School headquarters’ on Tuesday to announce their intention to file a complaint with the CPS Inspector General.

Parents and community organizations are alleging employee misconduct, deception and conflicts of interest in the school closure process.

CPS was scheduled to release an initial list of schools to be closed on this week. The complaint alleges that the formula used to determine “underutilized schools” was flawed, and also that it targeted neighborhoods with higher concentration of Latino and black students.

“Let’s be clear, CPS’ desire to close public schools is not driven by education and budgetary concerns, as the public is being led to believe,” said Erica Clark, a CPS parent and co-founder of Parents 4 Teachers, an education advocacy group and one of the organizations filing the complaint.

The complaint also alleges that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Nov. 13 acknowledged that the utilization formula had problems. But CPS in January defended its formula, with officials saying the system has seats for 511,000 students, but there are only 403,000 students enrolled, leaving nearly 140 schools half-empty.

In addition, the complaint alleges a conflict of interest in which organizations that are supporters of charter networks funded CPS community hearings. It states that the Walton Family Foundation, a charter booster, provided CPS a $478,000 grant to hire the Logan Marketing Group to run the “breakout sessions” during these meetings.

CPS offices were closed for the Lincoln Birthday holiday Tuesday and could not be reached for a response to the complaint.

CPS in the recent past said that 12 charter schools have been approved for the year 2013-2014 and that they are working with these operators to strategically locate the schools in neighborhoods that are currently overcrowded or in need of high quality schools.

The Pilsen Alliance, an organization of local school council members and parents from Pilsen, said Tuesday they are sending a request to Attorney General Lisa Madigan to look at violations to state law regarding use of public funds. A spokeswoman gave no detail on what the violations were.

“We are outraged at the blatant misuse of funds to promote nepotism and corruption at the expense of our schools,” said Rosalie Mancera, member of the Pilsen Alliance.

The moves at the local level by Parents 4 Teachers and state level by the Pilsen Alliance come on the heels of advocates seeking federal attention to the issue. Activist groups pressed their case before the U.S. Department of Education in a hearing Jan. 29 charging that the school closings are a civil rights violation.

CPS has not said how many schools face closure. Clark said her members were concerned by media reports and rumors that it might be as many as 140.

CPS offices were closed for the Lincoln Birthday holiday Tuesday and could not be reached for a response to the complaint.