Updated 03/21/13 – 6:15 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools announced a plan Thursday to close 53 schools and 61 buildings in an effort to close a $1 billion budget deficit — a proposal that was immediately condemned by the teachers’ union as harmful to minorities and the poor.
The Chicago Board of Education must approve any school closings, which will affect 30,000 students, and a final vote is expected in May. It is the largest single-year school closing ever in the United States.
Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel say the closures are necessary because too many school buildings are half-empty. The district says it has seats for more than 500,000 students but has only about 403,000 students.
“Like school systems in New York and Philadelphia, where enrollment has dropped, Chicago must make tough choices. Consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city’s students get the resources they need to learn and succeed,” Byrd-Bennett said in a letter posted on the CPS website.