Protests fail to deter Chicago from shutting 49 schools

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Officials here in the third-largest district in the country voted, after an emotional meeting, to close 49 public schools that they said were not being fully used.

The decision, passed overwhelmingly by the Chicago Board of Education, came after weeks of contentious public hearings that brought more than 34,000 people out to oppose the school consolidation plan at dozens of meetings across the city.

The move, which singled out schools that district officials said had too many empty desks after years of population loss — but that opponents argued unfairly targeted low-income minority communities — makes up the largest group of city schools to be closed at once in recent memory.

“The greatest challenge facing our school system right now is that tens of thousands of children every year are trapped in underutilized schools and under-resourced schools,” said Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the chief executive of Chicago Public Schools, who had to pause her remarks more than once when protesters began shouting. She later added, “We cannot maintain a system that cannot be sustained and does not benefit the children.”

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