Anger over prospective school closings in Chicago has culminated in the arrest of two dozen protesters over a three-day period of demonstrations.

The protesters were calling for a moratorium on school closings in Chicago, which has the nation’s third-largest school district. The school system has selected 54 schools to be closed which would be the largest school closing initiative in the country in years. The school board is expected to vote on the closures on Wednesday.

Officials of the public schools have maintained that the school closings are needed to help reduce the $1 billion budget deficit in the system. Furthermore, they contend that the school system would save millions of dollars by not having to operate and maintain dozens of buildings it considers underutilized.

The proposed closings have been highly controversial, with pressure from the teachers’ union, community activists and elected officials to prevent the schools from being closed. The demonstrations even involved a student protest a month ago. In that action, a number of high school students boycotted a standardized test, saying that neighborhood schools were an important part of the fabric of the city and should be maintained.

“There are a lot of constituencies that are impacted by the closings of the schools, most significantly the teachers themselves,” said Will Burns, a Chicago Alderman, in an interview with BET.com. “And so, there is a lot of emotion about this.”

He said that there are teachers who are nervous about losing their jobs and parents who are concerned about the fact that their children might have to travel to different communities to go to school.

“When students have to travel to different communities in rival gang territories, there is a great concern,” Burns said. “But there is also a sense that there is not much that can be done to prevent the closures from taking place.”

The teachers union has reacted strongly to the prospect of the school closures.

“We can all see what the consequences of their decisions are going to be and who will be affected by this,” said Michael Brunson, the recording secretary of Chicago Teachers Union. “We already have a problem with excess of violence in these communities where schools are being closed.”

He added, “One thing anyone can agree with is that this is an assault on vulnerable communities that they feel do not have enough political clout to stand up and defend themselves.”

Much of the anger in the protests was lodged against Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who hand-picked the members of the school board. As they walked through City Hall this week, the protesters chanted “Hey, Rahm, let’s face it, school closures are racist.”




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  • The Comment

    Mr. Emmanuel is no dummy. I wonder if this is one of those painful events that will benefit the community down the road. Sometimes the news doesn’t give me what I need to know. Like 15 pages worth of background info. Are the schools run down but students love the school cause it is small and they are getting a good education?

    • My grandmother used to say the best way to heal a boil is to lance it. In K-12 education, Chicago schools are notoriously infamous for underserving children, have one of the highest teacher attrition rates mainly because teachers feel unsafe in the school and are often woefully unsupported by administration and parents.

      I know many who will object to the above statement, but the research does not lie and before one join the condemnation of the mayor’s action, ask yourselves what other actions have he taken to improve schools in the city. Remember when he changed the hours that allowed elementary students to actually eat lunch? He was praised for that. Also, think about all those glowing reports of school success in Chicago and look at the demographics that they serve, then look at the real achievement rates – graduation and college bound rates. There are many indices that show how well a school system serves its students.

      I seriously doubt that a man who has learned to cope with his own learning disability would arbitrarily close schools unless he has a sound plan to put effective reforms in place – something that Chicagoan K-12 schools desperately needs.

      Now that having been said, the research also shows that Chicago have some phenomenal teachers who are doing amazing things with very little to no support from a heavily burdened and almost unwieldy system.

      My grandmother also said to weed-free and thriving garden needed constant tending – for kids to thrive, their environment must be well tended and that may well mean to cut out dead wood.

      How dare me me say these things? I am a teacher who read to keep abreast of the happenings in K-12 education and a parent of a child still in the education system.

  • Joy

    When is someone in Chicago going to start a MAJOR protest of all the black males killing each other??!! I’ve noticed that on most blogs there are always a zillion comments about relationships, hair, and what Beyoncé, and JZ are doing; but very very very few comments about black on black crime. Warped priorities

    • Wanda

      But who would respond to the “protest”? The young men killing themselves?

      How come we are the only people that believe protesting is THE main solution to every problem we have?