The Chicago Board of Education has voted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school. As reported earlier today, the schools that were spared from closure are Marcus Garvey Elementary School; Mahalia Jackson Elementary School; Leif Ericson Elementary Scholastic Academy; and George Manierre Elementary School.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has released the following statement in response to the vote:
Today is a day of mourning for the children of Chicago. Their education has been hijacked by an unrepresentative, unelected corporate school board, acting at the behest of a mayor who has no vision for improving the education of our children. Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy. Evidence shows that the underutilization crisis has been manufactured. Their own evidence also shows the school district will not garner any significant savings from closing these schools.
This is bad governance. CPS has consistently undermined school communities and sabotaged teachers and parents. Their actions have had a horrible domino effect. More than 40,000 students will lose at least three to six months of learning because of the Board’s actions. Because many of them will now have to travel into new neighborhoods to continue their schooling, some will be victims of bullying, physical assault and other forms of violence. Board members are wishing for a world that does not exist and have ignored the reality of the world we live in today. Who on the Board will be held responsible? Who at City Hall will be held responsible?
Members of the Board of Education, the school CEO, the mayor and their corporate backers are on the wrong side of history. History will judge them for the tragedy they have inflicted upon our students; and it will not be kind
Our fight for education justice has now moved to the courts, but it must eventually move to the ballot box. The parents are amazing leaders in their school communities and because of this administration’s actions we have all become closer and more united. We must resist this neoliberal savagery masquerading as school reform. We must resist racism in all of its forms as well as the escalating attacks on the working –class and the poor. Our movement will continue.
Protesters began rallying early this morning in anticipation of the vote. See our coverage here. This morning, a busload of education activists headed to Springfield to rally and call on legislators to pass a moratorium on public school closings in Chicago. We talked to the protesters early this morning before they headed downstate.
Check back with Progress Illinois for a full report on the school board meeting and largest-ever list of school closings at one time in the nation's history. We are also continuing to livetweet reaction to the vote on Twitter @ProgressIL.
UPDATE 1 (5:19 p.m.): Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has responded to the Chicago Board of Ed vote to close 50 schools:
I want to thank CEO Byrd-Bennett, the Board, the Commission and the tens of thousands of community members who have played an invaluable role in helping to ensure every child in this city has access to an education that matches their full potential. 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.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Public Schools have acknowledged the vote in a press release.
“I want to thank each member of the Chicago Board of Education for their tireless efforts and commitment to this process, and to the thousands of parents, teachers, students, and other community members who took the time to share invaluable feedback that helped shape and guide this entire process,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in the release. “But our work is just beginning – and CPS cannot do this work alone. With parents as active partners and an engaged community, there is no limit to what our children can achieve. I look forward to working together with parents and our school communities to create a fresh, positive start for all students at their new school this fall.”
The release also touts how it will "redirect its limited resources" during the process to close, consolidate and turnaround a record number of schools at one time:
By consolidating underutilized and under-resourced schools, CPS can redirect its limited resources into higher performing Welcoming Schools that will provide the investments needed to create a quality, 21st century education for every child.These investments include:
- Air conditioning in every classroom
- A library in every school
iPads for all students in grades 3-8
- New and upgraded technology supports including expanded Internet bandwidth
- Improved ADA accessibility
Upgraded facilities and cosmetic improvements, including fresh paint, masonry work, new windows, new ceilings and floors, and others
- Improved food service capacity through enhanced lunch rooms and food services as needed to accommodate and service the new welcoming school student body
- Customized school safety plans, including Safe Passage programs at every welcoming to provide safe routes to and from school
CPS is also adding 10 new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs, six new International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes and a new Fine Arts program in Welcoming Schools to ensure that students in every neighborhood have access to high-quality programs.
The release also details the district's plan to address provide safe passage to students affected by the school as well as provide "social and emotional supports" to those pupils.
Despite the community outrage surrounding the closings and all of the protests and comments made in public in hearings surrounding the school actions, Byrd-Bennett insists that school officials listened to what parents, teachers and other Chicagoans had to say about the plan.
“From the start, community feedback has driven every step of this process and will drive the ongoing development of our transition plans for every school,” Byrd-Bennett said. “We will continue to engage with the community and work in partnership with them to ensure a safe, smooth transition for students this fall.”