Chicago Schools Chief ‘Won't Accept' Claims Closings Are Racist

The battle to save 54 Chicago public schools from closure is still underway as union members and parents brought the fight Wednesday night to the school board's doorstep.

Protesters picketed outside Chicago Public Schools headquarters ahead of the first board meeting since the closures were announced last month.

CPS wants to close dozens of schools, affecting about 30,000 students mostly in African-American communities on the South and West sides. City officials say the schools are underutilized, but the teachers union president has called the move racist and classist.

Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett addressed the union's claim head on, saying she takes the accusation personally.

"What I don't understand and will not accept is that the proposals I am offering are racist," Byrd-Bennett said at the Wednesday board meeting. "That is an affront to me as a woman of color and it is an affront to every parent in our community who demands a better education for their children."

Some in the crowd interrupted Byrd-Bennett when she brought up the racist claims, saying "they are, they are."

That tension is expected to continue Thursday morning as the teachers union hosts a bus tour through the communities that face closure. Union members want to show elected officials the distances students will have to travel to their new schools.

A prayer vigil is planned Thursday night at Beidler Elementary led by religious leaders who oppose the closures. 

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