Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office indicated Thursday he plans to close 54 elementary schools in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods because Chicago public schools face a $1 billion shortfall.
According to the Associated Press, “many of the schools identified for closure are in high-crime areas where gang violence contributed to a marked increase in Chicago’s homicide rate last year.” These schools are in “overwhelmingly black and in low-income neighborhoods.”
In addition, “about 30,000 students will be affected by the plan, with about half that number moving into new schools.”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said she intends to fight the mayor every step of the way to prevent the closures, which may be finalized in May.
“Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services,” Lewis said. “Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit.”
Chicago Public Schools claimed the plan could “save the district $560 million over 10 years in capital costs and an additional $43 million per year in operating costs.”
The potential school closures could also endanger schoolchildren in neighborhoods already plagued by shootings. Those who oppose the plan said closing the schools would “erode troubled neighborhoods and endanger students who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school.”
And parents familiar with safe and unsafe areas in their current neighborhoods expressed concerns that they would not know which areas would be safe near the new schools their kids will be forced to attend. Some parents even said they would not send their kids to schools in unfamiliar areas because of safety concerns.
The city is expected to make final decisions about the school closures in May after it reviews and finalizes budget plans.
Emanuel and his family were outside Chicago the day of the announcement, enjoying a skiing vacation.