Skip to main content

Chicago to shutter dozens of schools

By Dana Ford and Katherine Wojtecki, CNN
updated 9:30 PM EDT, Thu March 21, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Chicago's mayor says the city, its children have "paid the price" for inaction
  • NEW: Teachers union says closures would disproportionately affect students of color
  • Sixty-one buildings, including 53 schools and one program, would close
  • Chicago Public Schools says it faces a $1 billion deficit

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.

"This city cannot destroy that many schools at one time, and we contend that no school should be closed in the city of Chicago. These actions will not only put our students' safety and academic careers at risk but also further destabilize our neighborhoods," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

"We do not have a utilization crisis. What we have is a credibility crisis. CPS continues to peddle half-truths, lies and misinformation in order to justify its campaign to wipe out our schools and carry out this corporate-driven school-reform nonsense," she said.

The union went on strike last year. The city's nearly 30,000 teachers walked out on September 10, objecting to a longer school day, evaluations tied to student performance and job losses from school closings.

Wins, losses and draws in Chicago school strike

With school districts across the country dealing with financial shortfalls and pressures to make reforms, the strike quickly gained national attention. It pitted the teachers union against Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who spoke in support of the school closings Thursday.

"This decision has been delayed for a decade, and it's our children and our city that have paid the price for inaction," he said. "Consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city's students get the resources they need to succeed in the classroom."

CPS currently has 403,000 students, with seats for more than 511,000, and close to 140 of its 681 schools are more than half empty, according to the district.

Katherine Wojtecki reported from Chicago. Dana Ford reported and wrote from Atlanta.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 12:46 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The tragic killing of two cops could not have happened at a worse time for a city embroiled in a bitter public battle over police-community relations, Errol Louis says.
updated 10:20 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
North Korea warns the United States that U.S. "citadels" will be attacked, dwarfing the hacking attack on Sony that led to the cancellation of a comedy film's release.
updated 9:51 PM EST, Sun December 21, 2014
The gateway to Japan's capital, Tokyo Station, is celebrating its centennial this month -- and it's never looked better.
updated 11:21 AM EST, Sat December 20, 2014
More than 1.7 million children in conflict-torn areas of eastern Ukraine face an "extremely serious" situation, Unicef has warned.
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Boko Haram's latest abductions may meet a weary global reaction, Nigerian journalist Tolu Ogunlesi says.
updated 5:34 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Drops, smudges, pools of blood are everywhere -- but in the computer room CNN's Nic Robertson reels from the true horror of the Peshawar school attack.
updated 9:43 PM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The gunman behind the deadly siege in Sydney this week was not on a security watch list, and Australia's Prime Minister wants to know why.
updated 4:48 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Bestselling author Marjorie Liu had set her sights on being a lawyer, but realized it wasn't what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
CNN's Matthew Chance looks into an HRW report saying Russia has "legalized discrimination against LGBT people."
updated 9:12 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
The Sydney siege has brought home some troubling truths to Australians. They are not immune to what are often called "lone-wolf" terror attacks.
Bill Cosby has kept quiet as sexual assault allegations mounted against him, but his wife, Camille, finally spoke out in defense of her husband.
updated 9:31 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT