From Illinois Public Radio - News Local/State -

Chicago Board of Education Votes to Close 50 Schools

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, center, listens to opponents of proposed school closures at a packed board meeting Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Chicago.

Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale, center, listens to opponents of proposed school closures at a packed board meeting Wednesday, May 22, 2013, in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

The Chicago Board of Education voted on Wednesday on proposed closings or changes at 54 public schools.

It's the largest round of school closings in American history: 49 elementary schools will be closed and one high school program will end.

In a move Tuesday, district CEO Barbara Bryd-Bennett recommended that four schools be removed from the earlier closure list: Garvey, Ericson, Mahalia Jackson and Manierre. In addition, Barton will not be turned around, and Canter will be phased out instead of closed. 

The board voted on those recommendations and on proposals to replace the staff at six grammar schools and to have 23 schools share 11 buildings, in what’s commonly called a "co-location."

Chicago Public Schools officials unveiled a list of schools they wanted to close in March, after a months-long process of whittling down a list of more than 300 elementary schools they considered to be under-enrolled.

At first, CPS pitched the massive closures as a way to save money in light of a projected $1 billion deficit, arguing they needed to combine “half-empty” schools in order to operate more efficiently. But in recent weeks, school leaders quietly reduced the estimated cost savings and started talking more about getting kids into higher performing schools.

“The goal is to make sure every child has a high-quality education, because without that, rather than doors being open, doors will be closed to their future,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press conference Tuesday. An analysis by Illinois Public Radio station, WBEZ of school performance shows only three closings sending kids to a top-performing school. One third will send kids to equally low-performing schools.

In an unprecedented move, CPS is investing heavily in the receiving schools. According to board reports for today's meeting, 19 receiving schools are slated to get extra money and positions next year to implement new middle school programs. Schools getting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs may receive $376,000 in startup funds and two extra positions. Schools implementing International Baccalaureate (IB) programs may get $255,000 and two positions and one school, Haley Elementary, may get $237,000 to start a fine and performing arts program.

The closures are just one piece of a larger school reform and restructuring plan. Buried in the school shake-ups being voted on today are plans to open 13 new schools and a handful of alternative programs. Many of those have already been approved by the board.

Categories: Economics, Education