Chicago board votes to close 50 schools, teachers union promises political payback

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CHICAGO – The Chicago Board of Education made history Wednesday when members voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program, beginning with the fall semester.

schoolclosedIn numerical terms, it is the largest downsizing of a major school district in American history, according to the Chicago Tribune.

District leaders described the decision as painful, but added that Chicago Public Schools’ $1 billion deficit left them with little choice but to shutter many half-filled school buildings.

Without some dramatic way of saving money, the district would be forced to gut student academic programs and activities. That would further weaken CPS students’ overall educational experience – which is already shaky, to say the least.

The closures will save the district $867 million over 10 years. The displaced students “will be sent to better-performing schools with amenities such as air conditioning, libraries and upgraded facilities,” Reuters reports.

CPS has been hemorrhaging students because middle-class African- American families have been fleeing the dysfunctional school system – and even the city itself.

Board member Mahalia Hines compared CPS’ problems to a nervous dental patient deciding whether to put off necessary surgery, writes the Chicago Tribune.

“The decay is too much, and that’s why so many middle-class African-Americans have left the city,” Hines said.

Not everyone at Wednesday night’s school board meeting was as understanding.

Chicago Teachers Union members and concerned parents vocally opposed the decision. They said that by closing neighborhood schools, children will be forced to travel longer distances to and from school, thereby exposing them to potential violence, for which the Windy City has become infamous.

Unofficially, the CTU opposes the closures largely because it will lead to mass teacher layoffs. And that will take a big bite out of the union’s bank account.

According to the Illinois Policy Institute, each Chicago teacher pays about $1,000 a year in union dues. If 500 teachers are laid off, it will shrink the CTU’s annual budget by $500,000.

CTU leaders are contesting the school closings in court, though union President Karen Lewis has acknowledged that the “fight” must “eventually move to the ballot box.”

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was the driving force behind the decision to close the 50 schools, is up for re-election in 2015. Lewis has made his defeat a top priority.

Emanuel says he’s prepared to take a political hit for the closings, reports the Tribune.

“You can talk about the political consequence to me, versus the lifetime consequence to a child that drops out because of poor education,” Emanuel said Tuesday.  “I will absorb the political consequence so our children will have a better future.”

Lewis said there will be consequences.

“I’m glad he’s prepared,” Lewis added.

By Ben Velderman at

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  1. isringhou says

    With the Chicago teachers strike, we had an opportunity to make the changes which could be the example for successful investments in education. The teachers claimed they did not have control. The parents complained that some students did not have books. and the news constantly is reporting about the unsafe conditions for students. But with all the information at hand, we ignored the opportunity and passed the pay raise and chose to continue with the status quo.

    Every school should be a positive safe educational environment. Every one their is a citizen that is entitled to protection of the law. It is just as important for school resource officers (specially trained police officers in uniform) to be at the school as it is for traffic duty or mall security. This is an expense of the police department not the school system. We pass the speed zone, gun zone, drug zone and other security precautions but ignore the enforcement and implementation. We invest in video systems, motion detectors, parameter barriers, and fail to use them effectively.

    The text book companies have had e-book options for 10 years, versions of e-tablets are available and in volume could be price completive with printed books, and the transition from year to year is as simple as a download.

    If the focus of schools were on career development and the journey to build a successful career path based on one’s passion, the graduation rate would be closer to 100% than the 40-50% of our major metropolitan cities. When the student realizes how communication skill, math skills, and the other academic studies relate to the building of a successful career, then the courses are important and the student will invest the effort to achieve success in all of their studies.

    Now that the school system is talking about closing 50 schools, the people of Chicago must ask the steward of their education investment funds (i.e. people’s money) how the people’s property (i.e. school building) will be returned to productive property within the community and not become a detriment to the community by becoming another vacant building.

    A CBS special, a few years ago, reported at that time that the graduation rate in Detroit was 24.7%, Chicago – 40%, and New York – 40%. There was an interview with an employee of McDonald’s who had dropped out of school in New York because it was not safe to be at the school. I have never seen a follow up on the school educational environment.

  2. Sharon Jeanguenat says

    Uh oh! The worms have turned! This could get very interesting!

    1. CindyLu says

      Very interesting, indeed.

  3. DustyFae says

    Stop Islamic teaching in all schools,This causes violent behavior in our children.

    1. Sharon Jeanguenat says

      And, they need to stop teaching sex education, that stops a lot of rapes, plus kick out all homosexual agenda. People need to learn to disapprove of something without perpetrating violence on those they disagree with, but it also should not be forced on anybody.

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