Despite closings, fight to save Chicago schools continues

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The Chicago Teachers Union has vowed to take its fight through the courts and to the ballot box as it joins with students, parents and other community groups to stop a reckless and unprecedented plan to close 50 public schools in the city—the largest mass school closing in America's history.

On May 23, the city school board essentially rubber-stamped a proposal by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to shutter schools across Chicago. Only four of 54 schools targeted for closure were spared by the board, which turned a deaf ear to five days of demonstrations and protests across the city—rallies, sit-ins and other efforts to stand up for as many as 40,000 students whose well-being and safety would be jeopardized by wholesale school shutdowns.

"Members of the board of education, the school CEO, the mayor and their corporate backers are on the wrong side of history," said CTU president Karen Lewis following the board's action. Lewis, who is also an AFT vice president, vowed to continue the fight to stop closings through two separate court cases and through grass-roots mobilization that will make these reckless decisions central in upcoming elections. "History will judge them for the tragedy they have inflicted upon our students," she said, "and it will not be kind."

"That is not what the people want and will not help children," says AFT president Randi Weingarten, citing evidence that suggests the closings were inspired by politics rather than the best interests of children. "Apart from what it means for the continuity and stability of children's schooling, the evidence makes clear these mass closings will destabilize neighborhoods, and it has raised serious safety concerns for children in a city where there is already too much violence.

"We commend CTU president Karen Lewis, CTU members, parents, students and the greater Chicago community, who have attempted at every step to do what is in the best interests of kids and Chicago's public schools." [Mike Rose, CTU, AFT press release]

May 23, 2013