Mayor Not Concerned About Political Fallout from CPS Closures

Not taking action would have greater consequences for students, says Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he's not concerned with the political consequences that could come his way if the Chicago Board of Education approves a plan to shutter more than 50 schools.

He's so sure his plan is the right one that he said not taking the action would have far greater consequences for the students he said would be robbed of a quality education.

"You can about the political consequence to me versus the lifetime consequence to a child that drops out because of poor education, and to me, the balance, if you're weighing equities -- I will absorb the political consequence so our children have a better future," Emanuel said during a press conference at the Department of Water Management headquarters.

Across town, parents and teachers gathered with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) at DuPrey/Von Humboldt School to protest the planned closures.

"If Lafayette closes and DuPrey/Von Humboldt closes, there will be no public school in East Humboldt Park," Moreno told those gathered. "That is not acceptable."

Emanuel and CPS officials say closing schools is a bold but necessary step to improve education and get the nation's third-largest school district on a better financial footing. But many teachers and their supporters say the closures are based on fuzzy math and are altogether unfair because they disproportionately affect students of color and put them in harm's way.

Additionally, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle last week criticized the mayor for ignoring a recommendation by a group of retired judges to take 13 schools off the closure list.

But that criticism seemingly hasn't affected the mayor.

"Not doing anything and allowing 56 percent of African American male adolescents to drop out would be a political concern to me," said Emanuel. 

The mayor drew a parallel between the proposed school closures with last year's fight over longer school days.

"In the same way, .... we have a full school day, and nobody's talking about going back to the shorter school day and the shortest school year in the country, which was a laughing stock around the country," he said.

While there may be a few final tweaks, the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday is expected to sign off on the mayor's plan.

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