Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Public Schools may close 129 schools to save money, and African-American students will bear the brunt of the displacement.
Of the schools slated for closing, 103 have a student population that is 90 percent or more black, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The city has until the end of the month to finalize the list of schools to be closed.
The Commission on School Utilization, which is overseeing the process of closing the schools, has supported shutting down as many as 80 schools. An interim report from the commission pointed out that the city had never closed more than 12 schools in a single year, and questioned whether CPS could manage their resources to make up for the closures.
However, as the March 31 deadline draws closer, the panel has shown much less opposition to the large-scale closures.
“They have a lot of work to do, but they do seem to have, in my judgment, both the structure, organization and personnel in place to do this efficiently,” commission Chairman Frank Clark said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Eighty was the designated number of schools that the commission found could handle the influx of students from under-performing schools. If that number were slashed to 60, displaced students would still be able to attend a school within a mile of their former location.
“Past experience has shown that students and their families are willing to travel longer distances for an increase in the quality of education,” the report states. “At the same time, for some children, one mile will be too far to travel given physical obstacles, gang lines, and other barriers.”
Chicago’s school district is composed of 41.6 percent African-American students, 44 percent Latino students and 8 percent white students.
Last September, Chicago teachers went on strike for more than a week after contract negotiations with the CPS failed. Now, the teachers are strongly against the school closures.
“Given CPS’ history, there is no way it has the capacity to shut down 13 percent of our entire school district without mass chaos,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement. “Every school that is closed impacts another in the broader community. That’s one more child exposed to Chicago’s rising tide of violence.”