Closures signal perfect storm for public schools
June 11th, 2013
05:19 PM ET

Closures signal perfect storm for public schools

By Nova Safo, CNN

Chicago, Illinois (CNN) – When Chicago students return to school after summer break, they will do so in 48 fewer elementary schools. The city is closing a record number of schools to deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall.

The closures are just the latest in a string of public school closings around the country, according to Emily Dowdall of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dowdall has been looking into the causes of public school closures:

[4:08] "And those are a decline in the school-age population, the rise in charter school enrollment, and finally, tight budgets that are forcing districts to act."

In Chicago, the schools that are being closed are in mostly African-American neighborhoods, where the recession has hit hard. Lack of jobs and rising crime have driven out many middle class families, and their school-aged kids have gone with them.

At the same time, public schools have lost even more students to charter schools, which are growing rapidly.

For Asean Johnson, a charismatic 9-year-old student who attended a protest against Chicago school closings, the fight to save his school was about keeping him and his friends safe. Many parents and students are worried about longer walks to schools farther away, in which they would have to cross dangerous gang lines:

[:41]“I’m worried about my school friends' safety. I’m worried about everybody’s safety. Because, I do not want anybody to die.”

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Filed under: CNN Radio • Illinois • School closings
Chicago board votes to close 50 schools
The Chicago Teachers Union, headed by Karen Lewis, opposes the closures.
May 23rd, 2013
03:07 PM ET

Chicago board votes to close 50 schools

By CNN Staff

(CNN) - The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to close 50 schools, a controversial move that drew sharp criticism from the city's teachers union.The vote comes two months after officials announced plans to shutter the schools.

The closures "will consolidate underutilized schools and programs to provide students with the quality, 21st century education they need to succeed in the classroom," Chicago Public Schools said in a statement Wednesday.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposed the closures, which it said would disproportionately affect African-American students.

"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," said Karen Lewis, the union's president. "Closing schools is not an education plan. It is a scorched earth policy."

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Filed under: Illinois • School budgets • School closings • teacher unions
March 21st, 2013
10:05 PM ET

Chicago to shutter dozens of schools

By Dana Ford and Katherine Wojtecki, CNN

Chicago (CNN) - Chicago school officials said Thursday that they plan to close dozens of schools in a bid to improve education and tackle a $1 billion deficit.

The move would shutter 61 school buildings, including 53 underused schools and one program. The cut represents roughly 10% of all elementary school facilities in Chicago Public Schools, the country's third-largest school district.

"Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools," said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of CPS.

"As a former teacher and a principal, I've lived through school closings, and I know that this will not be easy, but I also know that in the end this will benefit our children. Like school systems across the country where enrollment has dropped, Chicago must make tough choices, and by consolidating these schools, we can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school close to their home," she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, which it says would disproportionately affect African-American students. The union also warns the move would expose students to gang violence and turf wars, an apparent reference to neighborhood loyalties.

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