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."

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett giving her presentation on why the Board should vote to close, turnaround, or co-locate more than 65 schools at the Board's May 22 meeting. She ended her remarks by quoting Martin Luther King Jr. that it was the "right thing to do." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.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.


May 22, 2013 at 8:57 PM

By: Hugo Gonzalez

The vote

We all knew this vote was going to take place like it did. However we did manage to stop four school closings. So all the protesting we did was not wasted. But this is still unacceptable. 48 schools closed. My only comment, end mayoral control of public education!

May 22, 2013 at 10:02 PM

By: Jay Rehak

The Wheel of Fortune Turns Slowly

While I am saddened by the unelected school board's decision to close 49 schools despite the passionate efforts of thousands of children, parents, teachers and community members, I am encouraged by the bravery of those who spoke out against the closings. Citizens of every hue and perspective spoke eloquently and passionately about the travesty that seemed pre-ordained by a Mayor seemingly hellbent on destroying neighborhoods. Many people spoke truth to power, bravely asserting what we all know to be true: if we can afford a stadium for DePaul, we can afford to maintain our community's schools. The destruction of schools serves no one but the profiteers and privateers who will no doubt swoop down and buy abandoned schools at abandoned building prices. Still and yet, I am convinced that the Wheel of Fortune grinds slowly and certainly, and the day will come when the community's cries will be heard. That day will come, I believe, when we elect our school board. Today's community destruction may be the catalyst we all need to see that our laws must be changed so we can get representative government managing our most valuable community resources: our schools.

May 23, 2013 at 1:37 PM

By: T. Lehrer

Barbara Byrd Bennett and mayoral control

Being a Clevelander, I can tell you that we too have mayoral control and an appointed school board. Mayoral control was put on the ballot and passed. The measure had the support of the Cleveland Teacher's union who felt this was the way to go. Now, Cleveland teachers are feeling the same ill will towards mayoral control. The problem is that most cmsd teachers do not live in Cleveland. They chose to move away a long time ago when forced bussing came to town. They complain from their suburban homes how upset they are at mayoral control. Well folks, one way to resolve this matter is to move into the city, (assuming that most Chicago teachers no longer reside in Chicago). Make Chicago proper your home. If you don't like mayoral control, you can exercise your right to vote - something you can't do when you don't live in the city.

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