An education war is raging in Chicago. The Chicago Board of Education will close 50 Chicago Public Schools in the upcoming academic year, making their decision the “largest single wave of planned public school closures in U.S. history” according to the Huffington Post.
The board initially planned to close 54 schools, but the Leif Ericson, Marcus Garvey, George Manierre and Mahalia Jackson schools were spared when the CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett chose to eliminate them from the vote. Another school – Carter Leadership Academy – will not close for one year while Clara Barton Elementary School will be closely monitored for academic progress.
ABC Chicago reports:
“Like it or not, the system does have to change,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said on Wednesday afternoon after hearing dozens of Chicago Public Schools parents address their concerns about school closings. “We can no longer embrace status quo because the status quo is not working for all of Chicago’s children.”
CPS says those schools are “underutilized.” Critics, including the Chicago Teachers Union, say the closings of the schools will put children who have to cross gang territory in danger, and they were not given a chance to be part of the process.
School officials say they have a plan in place to keep the children safe. Bennett said that she realizes there was a lack of trust and transparency in the beginning of the process, and said the board worked to change that after getting an extension to add public meetings.
As she spoke, protesters chanted, “Children will die because CPS lies.” They, along with another man who had a loud outburst, were removed from the meeting.
Byrd-Bennett then suggested the board vote “no” to close some schools on the list: Mahalia Jackson, Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson, and George Manierre elementary schools. They were removed from the chopping block following recommendations from the review board. Clara Barton will become a charter school; and the closure of Miriam G. Canter Middle School was delayed one year. Kellman Elementary will be relocated.
The board followed all of her suggestions.
“Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said through a statement. “Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy.”
Following Bennett-Byrd, Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale spoke.
“We have been criticized for not listening to the community,” Vitale said,” but yet we have visited each and every closing school.”
It is undeniable that we operate with excess capacity in our system.”
After the vote, Mayor Rahm Emanuel issued a statement in which he thanked the board, and wrote, “I know this is incredibly difficult, but I firmly believe the most important thing we can do as a city is provide the next generation with a brighter future. More hard work lies ahead, but I am confident that together with teachers and principals, engaged parents and community support, our children will succeed.”
What do you think? Should the Chicago School Board have weighed other solutions before closing 50 schools?