CHICAGO (CBS) — On the eve of a Board of Education vote, and amid some vociferous opposition from teachers and some parents and students, Mayor Rahm Emanuel was standing by his plan to close more than 50 Chicago public schools.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that the board is struggling with the fate of three to five schools on the list of 54 that CPS has targeted to close. In the end, experts believe the board will vote to close most, but not all, of the schools on that list.
Board member Jesse Ruiz was out on Monday, visiting Jesse Owens Elementary, one of the schools on the list getting some last minute attention.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Emanuel on Tuesday rejected any suggestions he has not listened to parents urging him not to close schools, or to close fewer of them, and he acknowledged the board could close fewer than what CPS officials have recommended.
“The board still has questions. To this very moment they’re still doing their responsible thing for children, by interviewing and analyzing stuff. So they’ve taken their responsibility seriously. They didn’t just take the first list and say no, and they’re continuing to do the interviews,” he said.
The mayor would not say if he’d accept his hand-picked board voting to whittle down the number of school closings, but he stressed the original potential closing list had more than 300 underutilized schools.
“In fact, there’s been a lot of discussion from where we were five months ago; that started from almost 300; that went through stages of refinement, analysis, conversation, community meetings, hearings, interviews; that got down to this list,” he said.
The last minute lobbying continued in East Humboldt Park Tuesday night by students and teachers of DuPrey and Von Humboldt, two of the schools CPS has recommended for closing
“We want to invest in this community we think cps should invest in this community as well,” said Alexander Roy of DuPrey Elementary.
“This is the year for school closings and I think our mayor wants to be the number one school closer in the country,” said Julie Woestehoff, Executive Director of Parents United for Responsible Education.
Earlier this month, a group of independent hearing officers issued reports opposing at least 13 of the planned closings, arguing the district has not adequately planned security measures for students who would be forced to travel through dangerous neighborhoods, or that the new schools were not clearly better than those being closed.
City Hall sources have said the Board of Education might spare some of the schools CPS has targeted for closing, though fewer than the number of schools hearing officers suggested keeping open.
Emanuel said closing schools will be difficult, but he said he cannot accept leaving children in failing schools that are not teaching them.
The mayor suggested he does not care about paying a possible political price for the school closings.
“I will absorb the political consequence so our children have a better future,” he said.
The Chicago Teachers Union has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of minority and disabled students, claiming the Chicago Public Schools’ plan to close 53 elementary schools and 61 school buildings would violate the children’s civil rights.
The union has long argued the plan for school closings is discriminatory, because nearly all of the affected students are African-American.
The district has said the city’s declining African-American population has left many schools with low enrollment, prompting the need to close some of them to cut the budget in the face of an expected $1 billion shortfall next year.
One lawsuit against the school closings seeks a one-year moratorium on school closings, the other asks for a permanent halt to the plan.
A similar lawsuit last year was tossed out by a Cook County judge, but is still under appeal.