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.