Chicago Board of Education votes to close 49 elementary schools, 'turnaround' five elementary schools, and force eleven schools into 'co-location' in the largest number of closings of real public schools in American history
The Chicago Board of Education voted at its May 22, 2013 meeting to close 49 elementary schools, 'turnaround' five elementary schools, and 'co-locate' eleven schools in the largest attack on the real public schools of a major American city in history. One speaker pointed out that the only precedent for the destruction of so many schools, most of which serve African American students, came in the segregationist South in the years following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, but Chicago schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett told the Board that she resented the implications that her recommendations were racist and quoted Martin Luther King Jr., telling the Board that they had to do what was "right."
Of the original "Hit List" of 53 schools, four were removed and one was re-scheduled to close in one year, rather than in June 2013. The other 48 schools will be closed in June 2013, and their students are supposed to go to so-called "welcoming schools."
The Board's vote came after the Board members voted individually against closing Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson, Manierre, and Mahalia Jackson elementary schools. The Board also voted not to subject Barton Elementary School to "turnaround."
The dramatic vote came after seven months of protests that even CPS officials admitted mobilized more than 30,000 people who came out at hearings and in other forums in opposition to the move.
Prior to their vote, each of the six Board members gave a little speech about why he or she was doing the "right thing" by voting in favor of the massive Hit List.
The meeting itself was checkered with loud protests from speakers and the public, and more than a half dozen speakers were forcibly removed from the podium by Board security.
Prior to the vote, nine aldermen, the largest number in history to speak at a Board meeting, spoke in opposition to the closings.
Also speaking against the closings and other actions were Karen Lewis, President of the Chicago Teachers Union and Clarice Berry, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association. Like Byrd Bennett, most of the top executives at CPS today are from out of town with no Chicago teaching or administrative experience. These include "Chief Transformation Officer" Todd Babbitz, who gave a Power Point presentation showing how CPS had straightened out problems noted by the hearing officers after the hearings on the proposed closings.