Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rolled out his second-term education agenda Thursday at an invite-only speech, saying he wants to expand the number of full-day preschool classrooms and increase the Chicago Public Schools' graduation rate to 85 percent.
Among other initiatives, Emanuel said he wants to create opportunities for high school students to obtain college credit and set up additional specialty high schools in the city.
"We have to give parents not just choice, but quality choice," the mayor said, reported the Chicago Tribune.
During the event, Emanuel touched on his controversial move to close 50 underutilized schools.
"It was the most difficult and wrenching decision," Emanuel stressed. "I didn't want to do it, but keeping kids locked in failing schools to fail consistently, I didn't run for mayor to do that."
Emanuel also commented on the idea of an elected school board, which he opposes.
"I don't think we should put politics back into our schools," the mayor stated. "That's what got them in trouble in the first place."
In response to Emanuel's education speech, mayoral challenger Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia said in a statement, "The fact that Mayor Emanuel praised Bruce Rauner in his education speech today just shows how out of touch he is with the needs of Chicago's children."
"The Emanuel education agenda has always been about increasing private profits for his friends and campaign contributors," Garcia added. "He sold our children's future to Goldman Sachs and allowed campaign contributor Deborah Quazzo to make millions from her position on the Board of Education. It is clear that private profit drives the Emanuel education train while the people of Chicago are merely passengers."
Another mayoral candidate Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) issued the following statement in response to Emauel's education proposal:
Much like he "launched" his campaign from a sound stage where reporters weren't allowed to ask questions, Rahm Emanuel released his education platform at a carefully scripted invite-only event. He may say we need to put education first, but his actions in the last four years - closing 50 public schools to favor charters, gambling with our tax dollars on Wall Street, and slashing much needed resources from struggling neighborhood schools - say something different.
Can we really afford another four years of a mayor who ignores the voices that matter most in education? Students, parents and teachers should not be shut out of the debate in favor of a few hand-picked representatives that merely parrot his platform. We need a new direction at CPS, and voters will have their say this February.