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MEDIA WATCH: Stupid Rahm move makes national news for second time in month as USA Today notes Chicago closing struggles

For the second time in a month, an offensive and arrogant move by the administration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made national news when USA Today in its Easter Weekend edition reported extensively on the school closing controversy in Chicago. For those who still believe that the new Hit List 2013 of 53 CPS schools to be closed is not a done deal, Emanuel himself says so in USA Today, which doesn't got to subordinates on major stories. Earlier in March 2013, Emanuel's school officials had attracted national attention when they tried to censor the graphic novel Persepolis, and then cooked up a bizarre story to cover up the censorship following major protests by students, teachers, and leaders of the work of intellectual freedom.

Flnaked by elected officials, union leaders, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis addressed the March 27, 2013 rally of several thousand people against school closings in Chicago's Daley Plaza.The story, which appeared on the third page of the national weekend edition, detailed the opposition to the 2013 Hit List in Chicago and quoted Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz (a trail lawyer) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, but not Emanuel's handpicked out-of-town "Chief Executive Officer".

USA TODAY BELOW HERE:

Chicago school closings ignite furor and fears, Judy Keen, USA TODAY12:31a.m. EDT March 29, 2013. The announcement last week that Chicago Public Schools will close 54 schools before classes begin next fall is creating a furor and igniting fears.

CHICAGO — Curtis Johnson cried when he heard that the public school where he works as a security guard and where two of his children are students will close at the end of this school year.

Johnson, 42, worries his children, ages 11 and 13, will have to "walk across gang-infested neighborhoods" to get to their new school. "I don't understand that," he says.

The announcement last week that Chicago Public Schools will close 54 schools before classes begin next fall is creating a furor.

Jesse Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, says the number of schools must be pared because many are underutilized because of a shrinking student population — the number of Chicago residents fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010 — and because the district faces a $1 billion budget shortfall.

About 30,000 children will be moved. Schools are currently equipped to accommodate 511,000 students; enrollment now is 403,000.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that negotiations are over and plans to implement the closings are proceeding.

When the closures were announced, he said, "Keeping open a school that is falling short year in and year out means we haven't done what we are responsible for ... and what we owe every child."

A march this week that resulted in dozens of arrests will be followed by more protests, says Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. She says the union likely will sue to try to block the closures.

Demonstrators protest March 27 against a plan to close 54 public schools in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett say closing underutilized buildings will allow the district to move students to higher quality schools and help trim a $1 billion budget shortfall. Charles Rex Arbogast, AP Fullscreen

Next Slide

"This is a hurried, very, very poor policy," Lewis says. "It has not been thought out clearly."

Lewis says what's happening in Chicago has national implications.

"We're seeing school closings as a public policy," she says. "This is coming to a district near you."

Ruiz says the plan is "the culmination of months and months of work and listening to lots of input." There will be more community meetings and public hearings before the school board votes in late May.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's CEO, said this week that school consolidations "will allow us to safely move these children to a higher-performing, welcoming school near their home with all investments they need to thrive in the classroom."

The district has promised to expand a "safe passage" program that stations adults near schools to ensure students arrive and depart safely.

Larry Trotter, bishop of Sweet Holy Spirit Church on the city's South Side, was among a dozen pastors who wrote to Emanuel to ask him to reconsider the closings. "Let's press the pause button," Trotter says.

He worries that students in new schools will be more vulnerable to gang violence. "You cross a certain street where you don't live and somebody might hurt you," he says.

Democratic Alderman Scott Waguespack says a resolution will be introduced at the April 10 City Council meeting that would put closings on hold until the school district prepares a long-term master plan.

Caty Stillwell, 41, a second-grade teacher and mother of a fifth-grader at a North Side school that won't be affected by the closures, has two concerns: overcrowding and safety.

Mostly, she feels sad.

"It's affecting the whole city," she says, "and it just breaks my heart."

Chicago school closings ignite furor and fears

Judy Keen, USA TODAY12:31a.m. EDT March 29, 2013

The announcement last week that Chicago Public Schools will close 54 schools before classes begin next fall is creating a furor and igniting fears.

(Photo: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

Chicago Public Schools will close 54 schools before classes begin next fall

Board cites shrinking student population and $1B budget shortfall

About 30,000 children will be moved

CHICAGO — Curtis Johnson cried when he heard that the public school where he works as a security guard and where two of his children are students will close at the end of this school year.

Johnson, 42, worries his children, ages 11 and 13, will have to "walk across gang-infested neighborhoods" to get to their new school. "I don't understand that," he says.

The announcement last week that Chicago Public Schools will close 54 schools before classes begin next fall is creating a furor.

Jesse Ruiz, vice president of the Chicago Board of Education, says the number of schools must be pared because many are underutilized because of a shrinking student population — the number of Chicago residents fell by 200,418 from 2000 to 2010 — and because the district faces a $1 billion budget shortfall.

About 30,000 children will be moved. Schools are currently equipped to accommodate 511,000 students; enrollment now is 403,000.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said this week that negotiations are over and plans to implement the closings are proceeding.

When the closures were announced, he said, "Keeping open a school that is falling short year in and year out means we haven't done what we are responsible for ... and what we owe every child."

A march this week that resulted in dozens of arrests will be followed by more protests, says Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union. She says the union likely will sue to try to block the closures.

Demonstrators protest March 27 against a plan to close 54 public schools in Chicago. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett say closing underutilized buildings will allow the district to move students to higher quality schools and help trim a $1 billion budget shortfall. Charles Rex Arbogast, AP Fullscreen

Next Slide

"This is a hurried, very, very poor policy," Lewis says. "It has not been thought out clearly."

Lewis says what's happening in Chicago has national implications.

"We're seeing school closings as a public policy," she says. "This is coming to a district near you."

Ruiz says the plan is "the culmination of months and months of work and listening to lots of input." There will be more community meetings and public hearings before the school board votes in late May.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's CEO, said this week that school consolidations "will allow us to safely move these children to a higher-performing, welcoming school near their home with all investments they need to thrive in the classroom."

The district has promised to expand a "safe passage" program that stations adults near schools to ensure students arrive and depart safely.

Larry Trotter, bishop of Sweet Holy Spirit Church on the city's South Side, was among a dozen pastors who wrote to Emanuel to ask him to reconsider the closings. "Let's press the pause button," Trotter says.

He worries that students in new schools will be more vulnerable to gang violence. "You cross a certain street where you don't live and somebody might hurt you," he says.

Democratic Alderman Scott Waguespack says a resolution will be introduced at the April 10 City Council meeting that would put closings on hold until the school district prepares a long-term master plan.

Caty Stillwell, 41, a second-grade teacher and mother of a fifth-grader at a North Side school that won't be affected by the closures, has two concerns: overcrowding and safety.

Mostly, she feels sad.

"It's affecting the whole city," she says, "and it just breaks my heart."



Comments:

April 2, 2013 at 3:36 PM

By: Ken Budz

School closings

The closings that happened already have caused enough chaos, now 54. Is any newspaper polling Chicagoans about this? How long before some eighth graders get hurt or killed? Future lawsuits, you bet.

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