Chicago will close 54 schools at the end of year, the largest school closures in the nation.
This controversial decision has fired up Chicago’s Teachers Union, which argues that the measure appears to target schools in “minority districts.”
However, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the closures are necessary to make sure the City is “investing in quality education.”
“The anguish and pain that comes from making the change pales in comparison to the anguish that comes from trapping children in failing schools that will not give them the opportunity to have doors opened for them in their futures,” Emanuel said.
But according to former Chicago Sun Times reporter Mary Wisniewski, teachers across Chicago say 86 public schools have been closed thus far and “kids sent elsewhere have not done better.”
Wisniewski says teachers are also complaining about the closures because the city is opening up charter schools that “employ non-union, inexperienced teachers.”
The district is facing a $1 billion shortfall, and the closures could net Chicago $560 million in long term revenue. It will cost about $230 million dollars to fund the school transitions.
Critics also contend that, because of the closures, students who get integrated into new schools may be forced to cross neighborhoods on their way to school that expose them to gang activity. The city says it will limit the distance each child will have to travel, but parents simply want their “kids as near to home as possible,” said Wisniewski.
Responding to the criticism from the teachers union and parents in some neighborhoods, Emanuel says he is “not interested in trading taunts.”
He says the ultimate goal in implementing these painful closures is to make sure the city’s education system achieves what it set out to do, to give all children a high quality education.