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School closings hardest on African-Americans because of population shifts, mayor says

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces opening City Hall Small Business Center streamlining permit licensing reviews. Thursday March 7 2013 | Brian

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announces the opening of the City Hall Small Business Center and streamlining the permit and licensing reviews. Thursday, March 7, 2013 | Brian Jackson~ Sun-Times

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Updated: April 9, 2013 11:42AM



Nine out of 10 Chicago Public School students potentially impacted by school closings are African-American because their neighborhoods suffered population losses, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday.

One day after a community activist branded the disproportionate impact on black students a “lawsuit waiting to happen,” Emanuel renewed his commitment to forge ahead with a politically explosive decision that Chicago has avoided for a decade.

“There has been a big change in the city over the last decade ... and we need to make sure that our schools are reflective of the change in our city,” the mayor said.

“We have postponed this. It’s actually a postponement that’s adversely affected our children’s education. Now, we need to deal with it in a very sensitive way, in a compassionate way, but achieve the goal, like the longer school day, to give all our children a high-quality, valuable education so they can have a future that is worthy of those children.”

The mayor reiterated his commitment to get the political pain over with in one fell swoop — kind of like removing a Band-Aid.

In fact, after persuading the Illinois General Assembly to push back the deadline for releasing a list of school closings until March 31, Emanuel agreed not to close any more schools for five years.

“For the last decade that this has been around, four months out of every year, we as a city freeze up and we have a fight. We take our eye off the ball. We are not focused on delivering our children the type of education they need. We fight about what schools, how many schools will be consolidated,” he said.

“I’ve asked — and we’re gonna have when we’re done with this — a moratorium so that, for the next five years, 365 days a year all we’re doing is discussing how to improve education and not taking four months out of every year [holding] our breath as it relates to school actions.”

He added, “We have to make the adjustments so every child and every receiving school is a high-quality school. We need to be sensitive about it. It’s not easy. It is a difficult issue. [But] we have not been able to give every child ... a high-quality education. We have to make the changes so every child, regardless of where they live, can achieve that.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that 88 percent of the students attending the 129 schools that remain on the CPS hit list are African-American.

The newspaper also reported that 117 of the 129 schools are majority black and that 119 of them have a percentage of black students higher than the district average.

The racial breakdown of the schools does not mirror overall demographics of the district. Across the city, 41.7 percent of CPS students are African-American, 8.8 percent are white and 44.1 percent are Hispanic. The rest are Asian, Native-American or members of other racial groups.



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