CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 53 schools and 61 buildings, mostly in black neighborhoods, has some West Side residents vowing to fight the Emanuel administration until the end.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports, to hear some tell it on the West Side, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a racist liar who doesn’t care about the kids. And they’re just getting started.
“I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school,” said activist Wendy Matil Pearson as opponents of the school closing plans protested outside Horatio May Elementary Community Academy in the Austin neighborhood.
Protesters shouted “save our schools!” as they outside May on Friday, a day after CPS released its list of 53 schools and 61 buildings it plans to close at the end of the school year, to help address a projected $1 billion budget shortfall.
May Elementary and nearby Louis Armstrong Math & Science Elementary School would be closed under the CPS plan, and their students would join George Leland Elementary School, although the new Leland would be placed in the current May building. All three buildings are located on the same half-mile stretch of Congress Parkway.
The protesters said the CPS school closing plan would bring nothing more than more street violence and more blight.
“We will have more gangs, more murders, more killers, and everything,” said CPS student Brittany Sanders.
Kids yelled out the windows of the school as parents, teachers, and activists gathered out front.
Dwayne Truss, assistant director of the grassroots school advocacy group Raise Your Hand, said opponents of the school closings would do everything they can to keep schools open.
“We’re here to stand up to the bully, a.k.a. Rahm Emanuel, a.k.a. the one-term mayor,” he said.
Valerie Leonard, co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance, accused the mayor of trying to drive African Americans out of the city.
“He says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago. Does that new Chicago mean no black folks?” she said. “Where are people going to go? They’re not going to stay around in the community if there are no schools!”
The protesters said they don’t buy the mayor’s claim students will get better educations when they are moved out of buildings with low enrollment. The district has said the money saved from closing schools will be used to improve the “welcoming schools” where students are relocated.
“It’s a lie!” protesters repeatedly shouted.
Responding to the safety concerns of some parents, Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz tells CBS 2’s Brad Edwards: “I know the neighborhoods out there. I do empathize, and thus it’s critically important to me that we get it right.”
The protesters weren’t the first to accuse Emanuel of racism in his school-closing effort. The Chicago Teachers Union has repeatedly said the school closing plans are racist, as most of the schools that would be closed are in African-American communities.
On Thursday, CTU President Karen Lewis said the plan was both “racist” and “classist,” and she called Emanuel “the murder mayor.”
“He is the murder mayor,” she said, referencing the city’s recent problems with gun violence. “Look at the murder rate in this city. He’s murdering schools, he’s murdering good jobs. He’s murdering housing. I don’t know what else to call him. He’s the murder mayor.”
The district’s plan to close schools must be approved by the Chicago Board of Education. Public hearings will be held to discuss the schools targeted for closure before a final vote in late May.