Continuing fight over Chicago school closings being settled in court

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CHICAGO – Union attorneys are making their case this week for a preliminary injunction to halt the closure of numerous underutilized Chicago school buildings.

Bully-protestThe Chicago Teachers Union was the first to call witnesses in Chicago’s U.S. District Court yesterday in a lawsuit aimed at stopping Chicago Public Schools from closing down 50 schools this fall.

The union relied on the testimony from education policy professor Pauline Lipman of the University of Illinois at Chicago. She said the move represents “a major escalation” in school closures with unknown affects, the Associated Press reports.

“Lipman … said schools are often ‘anchors’ of a neighborhood, especially in poorer or more crime ridden areas,” the news service reports. “She said shutting them could have a destabilizing effect.”

We believe keeping the schools open would be worse.

There’s plenty of documented evidence that the schools slated for closure haven’t made the grade academically. Shutting them down and moving students to better performing schools will only improve their prospects for the future, which in turn would lead to a much more stable life.

Chicago Public Schools officials have repeatedly said the schools are inefficient, in part because they’re vastly underutilized. There are 403,000 students in the CPS system and more than 500,000 seats, the AP reports.

That’s a recipe for financial instability, and would force school officials to cut student programs or other educational offerings each year to keep half-empty buildings operating.

Lipman is correct that schools serve as anchors in their respective communities, but many of the schools slated for closure aren’t exactly models of excellence. Students don’t learn to read, write, or do math as they should, and many students give up before they even reach graduation.

In other words, the schools are anchoring students to a life of poverty and despair, and serve as a key component in perpetuating a vicious cycle of ignorance and crime in the city.

We believe CPS officials are doing the right thing by closing schools with dwindling enrollment and poor performance, and moving students to a better place to learn. Students in the impacted schools deserve a much better education than they currently receive.

We certainly hope the judge sees things the same way, and makes the tough but necessary decision not to block the closures.

By Victor Skinner at EAGnews.org

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