Rahm Shuts Down the Schools

Just over a week ago, Chicago Public School (CPS) officials announced the closing of 54 elementary schools contained in 61 buildings, located in poor, mostly black and Hispanic neighborhoods. The move represents the largest mass closing of schools in the nation’s history. CPS, facing a projected budget deficit of $1 billion in 2014, insists money spent keeping schools with declining enrollment open can be better used elsewhere. Approximately 30,000 students will be affected by the move. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and many parents are furious, and vow to fight.

“Like school systems in New York and Philadelphia, where enrollment has dropped, Chicago must make tough choices,” said Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in a letter posted on the CPS website. “Consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city’s students get the resources they need to learn and succeed.” CTU President Karen Lewis called the move “classist” and “racist” and offered a scathing assessment of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was on vacation when the announcement was made. “He is the murder mayor,” Lewis said. “Look at the murder rate in this city. He’s murdering schools, he’s murdering good jobs. He’s murdering housing. I don’t know what else to call him. He’s the murder mayor.”

Emanuel was unimpressed. “I’m interested in ideas, not insults,” he said. “Do you have an idea that would ensure that 56 percent of the African-American male adolescents don’t drop out? Ideas are what matter, not insults. Do you have an idea of how to move not only our graduation rate, but our college attendance?”

Both Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett contend the closures are necessary because there are currently only 403,000 students in enrolled in a district where there is seating for 500,000, and many of the buildings being closed are half-empty. Concerned parents counter that the closings will further undermine marginal neighborhoods, and force young children to cross gang boundaries to reach their new schools, putting their lives in potential danger.

For parents such concerns are legitimate. Chicago’s murder rate is 15.65 per 100,000, almost four times the American average, and almost 80 percent of shootings and murders in the city are gang-related, according to police. Furthermore, there may be as many as 68,000 gang members in the Windy City, quadruple the number of cops.

Activists were also infuriated, and like Karen Lewis, also willing to inject race into the issue. “I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets as they travel along gang lines, or stand on the steps of a CPS school,” said activist Wendy Matil Pearson. “He says that he wants to turn around the city of Chicago, make a new Chicago. Does that new Chicago mean no black folks?” wondered Valerie Leonard, co-founder of the Lawndale Alliance. “Where are people going to go? They’re not going to stay around in the community if there are no schools!” Dwayne Truss, assistant director of the grassroots school advocacy group Raise Your Hand, aimed his anger at the Mayor. “We’re here to stand up to the bully, a.k.a. Rahm Emanuel, a.k.a. the one-term mayor,” he said.

Last Wednesday, a rally took place at Daley Plaza, after which protesters marched downtown past Chicago City Hall, ending at CPS Headquarters. Civil disobedience was planned, but it amounted to little more than some minor disturbances, resulting in no arrests. Adam Collins, Director of News Affairs at the Chicago Police Department, noted that the number of protesters was far less than what had been expected. “While police were prepared for what the event organizers predicted to be a crowd of 5,000 or more, there were approximately 700-900 participants, so the event was well-managed and without incident,” he said.

Lewis spoke at the rally, and yet again played the race card. “Let’s not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides that the children who will be affected are black. Let’s not pretend that’s not racist,” Lewis contended. “They are closing down schools that have names of African-American icons. But he’ll open up schools to put the name of a living billionaire on front.”

Both the activists and Lewis are being disingenuous. The schools being closed are in black and Hispanic communities, and according to the CPS’s own website, black and Hispanic students comprise 85.7 percent of the student body. White student comprise only 8 percent, due in large part to the reality that white Chicagoans, who make up one-third of the city’s population, put their children in private schools. Thus, the overwhelming majority of children in most schools in the city are minority students, and Lewis’s clear attempt to stoke the flames of racial hatred in the black community with charges of racism rings hollow.

Furthermore, if Lewis and her fellow teachers are so concerned, they have a funny way of showing it: even as they knew full well the district was facing a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars, they staged a strike last September. The key issues in that strike were teacher salaries, benefits, job security and a demand to change a teacher evaluation system that relied “too much” on test scores. As a result of prevailing in that strike, CTU teachers are now the highest paid in the nation, earning an average annual salary of $74,839–not counting benefits.

By comparison, the average Chicagoan, living in a city where the unemployment rate is just under 11 percent, makes just $30,203.

To be clear, the abysmal situation in Chicago schools and the related measure of school closings is, without a shadow of a doubt, a problem created by the Democrats, exacerbated by Democrats, with a “solution” that pits relatively well-off Democrats against poor Democrats. While Rahm Emanuel struggles to cope with budget shortfalls, violence and underutilized campuses, he sends his own children to private schools. When Karen Lewis rails about closings that “unnecessarily expose our students to gang violence, turf wars and peer-to-peer conflict” and “putting thousands of small children in harm’s way,” she neglects to mention that nearly 40 percent of her fellow unionists send their children to private schools as well — or that Chicago teachers provide less instruction than any other “large metro area” in the country, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.

As for the parents, in 12 of 13 city wards where black Americans comprise an overwhelming majority of the population, voting for the same Democrat is more than a reflex: in the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney did not receive a single vote.

The CPS promises it will invest money to improve schools where the students affected by the closings will be relocated. The funds freed up will ostensibly be used to add more technology, air conditioning, better security, more tutoring and additional services. CPS promises that every school will have a library and that students will no longer be subjected to substandard buildings. “We know this is going to be difficult, but we believe it’s the right thing to do,” said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. “I’m sure any parent would stand up and say they want a better education for their child. And in order for that to happen, we have to do this and move on.”

As this previous Front Page report on the horrendous state of the Chicago public schools reveals, moving on–not up–is all that is likely to occur. The move to improved facilities is reminiscent of another progressive pipe dream, namely public housing. At one time in cities across America, buildings that are now urban epicenters of crime and social dysfunction were also new and improved. If the underlying problems facing blighted school communities remain unaddressed, what expectation can there be that promises of “investments” will offer any hopes for transformative change?

As long as public school education in Chicago remains under the status quo control of the unholy Democrat-teachers union alliance, moving children to newer buildings will amount to nothing other than one more broken promise of “reform” — similar to every other broken promise of reform that has been made over the course of several decades.

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  • Mary Sue

    someone calling Rahm Emannuel a racist and classist is hilarious!

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      It just couldn't happen to a more deserving person.

      • JacksonPearson

        Rahm Emannuel's a pitiful, do it my way, or the highway type of mayor: http://img697.imageshack.us/img697/9505/orelse2.j

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

          Yes, a typical liberal from the party of the big tent that lectures everyone on 'inclusiveness'…..

          As if they ever try it themselves?

          • JacksonPearson

            The left can't live by their own rules…Alinsky…do as i say, and not as I do!

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Rhambo has as little interest in the kiddies as many who are criticizing him. Alas, they are forever raising the racist bugaboo. But as Mayor he has to do something, anything to stop the fiscal stench. This is sort of like the leftist pyromaniac playing firefighter! That's the issue.
    As to the children, they are doomed, as long as "transformation" is the goal. BTW, would love to hear from Billy boy Ayers on this subject, as he always opines about the kiddies – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/12/25/domestic-terr
    The (purposeful) (mis)education of the young.

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • objectivefactsmatter

    Lewis spoke at the rally, and yet again played the race card. ”Let’s not pretend that when you close schools on the South and West sides that the children who will be affected are black. Let’s not pretend that’s not racist,” Lewis contended. “They are closing down schools that have names of African-American icons. But he’ll open up schools to put the name of a living billionaire on front.”

    Those racist financialists.

    • Micha Elyi

      Karen Lewis is just like any other union head. Or behind. All her barking amounts to nothing more than the tired union demand of More Pay For Less Work. Keep half-filled schools open? Less work. Smaller class sizes? Less work. More staff days during the school year? Less work. On strike? More pay.

      It's high time we separated School and State. Politician-run, taxpayer-financed schooling is a financial failure and a moral failure. They've got to go.

    • tagalog

      "Let's not pretend that the affected children are black?" What color should we pretend they are?

      Or is Ms. Lewis just inarticulate?

  • http://twitter.com/quark1912 @quark1912

    Fewer students require less classroom space. People are having fewer children than in the past and the people to ask why are Planned Parenthood among others.

  • Brujo Blanco

    If Chicago can save real money by closing schools then that is what needs to be done.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      They can save real money by shutting down the police dept and the personal protection for Rahm.

      It's not like the police is stopping crime, so why fund them?

  • AnOrdinaryMan

    Part of the problem is Karen Lewis' response. She doesn't say, "What can Chicago teachers do to improve things?"(Like maybe take a temporary pay cut to show they're willing to walk the walk) Instead, we get the long worn-out, no responsibility race card response. How can this overweight demagogue look at herself in the mirror? And here's a chicken-soup-for-the-soul idea for Mr. Emanuel: discipline. Yep, apply discipline to behavior problems, consistently and firmly; even in a city where gangs run wild and PC rules.

    • Jack Wisdom

      In NYC's Department of Education, all teachers are issued a blue covered Code of Discipline booklet, defining a range of problem behaviors, and their "consequences." The word "punishment" nowhere appears as that word is politically incorrect. (Another word that is not-PC is "obedience.") So, in the book, if you are caught with a deadly weapon there are consequences but no punishment per se. Although the police would in fact become involved, prosecution is not even mentioned as one of the "consequences" in the booklet. After all, we don't want to sound too stern. They're only kids….

  • Asher

    So lets purposely keep education from the dumbed down sectors…they don't want smart people to vote. Chicago is a cesspool, gangs erupted on Michigan Ave..attacking shoppers. Do not vacation there, it is not safe for anyone! This is the Left at their most radical!

  • tagalog

    If the parents are concerned because their kids might have to cross risky gang turf in order to get to school, why don't they get together and make some effort to mitigate the power of the gangs? Surely a concerted group effort by committed parents would have positive results in that area.

    Chase the gang-banging thugs out of the neighborhood., Oh wait, that might interfere with the supply of drugs to Mom and Dad.

    But nooo, it's up to government to insure the safety of the kids and the adults in the hood shouldn't have to do anything.

    • teacher reader

      Having taught on the South Side of Chicago, you have no idea of what you speak. Your idea sounds so easy, but gangs are a part of the culture there. Parents, grandparent, and children all in the same family in the same gang. I am not saying that I am for gangs, but problem of gangs does not just exist with the youth and is much bigger than you can imagine. Sadly, so called Black Leaders in Chicago, refuse to address the real problems that children are facing. Probably no money it for Jesse and Sharpton, so the problems will persist.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

        So the parent's shouldn't care enough to try?

      • tagalog

        I've never taught on the South Side of Chicage as your post suggests, but you're right; grandparents as gang members are outside of my comprehension.

        But I have to keep reminding myself that on many a "South Side," one can reach grandparent status by the age of 25 or 30.

        Entire families as gang members cries out for something more drastic than neighborhood parents banding together to stop gang threats.

        • Jim_C

          Very true, and what that is, I don't know, and I don't think anyone does. National guard maybe? Military boarding school-type environments? If the parents don't care, ain't nobody saving the place.

          • tagalog

            I worked at a residential treatment center in my 20s for a brief period. I am also a former military school cadet from both high school and college, and my experiences tell me that a military school-type environment won't work with gang-bangers. They would revolt. I once saw that happen at the Wiltwyck School for Boys, the residential treatment center where I worked in 1970. It was bad.

      • Fritz

        I refuse to accept the premise that everyone in the neighborhood, or even a majority, are active in semi organized crime like gangs.The solution to gangs is not that complicated, find someone like Joe Arpio to head the Chicago P.D and the allure of gang life will very quickly disappear. He can start off by establishing an Internal Affairs Division (Rat Squad) to flush the dirty cops out of the force that look the other way for the right incentives. Also hire a D.A that actually prosecutes gang members, like Rudy Giuliani in New York, but then again he may bust some members of the machine there too and they wouldn't like that.

  • http://www.clarespark.com clarespark

    Education reform is blocked by teachers unions and a red curriculum. See http://clarespark.com/2012/05/03/index-to-blogs-o…. "Index to blogs on education reform." Arne Duncan was once in charge of Chicago schools, and there are blogs on his background, but I would read the reviews of Steve Brill's and Terry Moe's recent books first.

  • Mark

    The closings could have been done in stages and some schools could have been saved by consolidation with nearby schools. Teachers need to take a major pay cut and the effort to stamp out gangs of hoodlums should be increased. The gangs need to be taken off the streets by any legal means. No child should be allowed to fear for his life in order to attend school! The drop in the number of school age black kids is largely due to Planned Parenthood's and other "progressive" groups's support of abortion among the desperately poor black population of the city. The black population of Chicago is under attack by wealthy "progressives" who are living high on the hog. The black churches are also to blame if they are anything like the one's in Detroit, near where I live. Pastors making excuses for immorality and crime and blaming the white man and the legacy of slavery is the norm in too many black churches as well as liberal white churches who are overwhelmed by white guilt. What is needed is missionaries of the black and yes the white middle classes going into poor neighborhoods with massive police protection and speaking the truth: namely that black youth must reject the culture violence, hate, babies out of wedlock and excuses and work hard to achieve the great things they are capable of doing. Figures such as Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X and so many other great African Americans achieved what they did through hard work and learning values of speaking in standard English, working hard, and studying hard. Parents must tell their children that they are expected to finish high school and go on to college or learn a useful trade. I urge all readers of this article to read Juan Williams courageous book, "Enough!' and learn the truth. His book should be required reading in every poor neighborhood in the U.S.

    • JackWisdom


  • Ar'nun

    Progressives fighting Liberals. This is a microcosim of what the Republicans should have done following the last elections. The people of Chicago are seeing the results of decades of Liberalism and their racism by low expectation. Had the Republicans not fought them so hard on minor issues, even Obama would have eventually had to deal with Reality, and reality is the enemy of Progressives. ____Eliminate restrictions of the Second Amenedment and add a Stand your ground law. Parents can apply for and recieve a gun permit, and escort their kids to school. If Gangbangers don't like it, put them down like the rabid dogs they are. ____By closing the schools you address the Union Entitlement problem. Teachers that are used to coasting for 20 years until retirement will now have to compete in a smaller market, which means they will either need to be better or get tossed for someone who wants to do a good job. ____But alas, people in the Cities are used to being coddled by the Demorat Nannystaters. They believe it is up to the Government to name a school, do away with gangs, and keep the unions honest. But they could easily fix these problems on their own, but Progress is always in the way of improvements.

    • JamesJ

      And they will all (and their dead relatives) still vote democrat……several times.

    • pyeatte

      I agree, if you have a cancer in the street, you must cut it out. At some point you have to realize that the gangs and the criminal enterprises they run, live by a different code – extreme violence. You will have to meet them on their terms and that means start killing them until they quit, and if they don't quit, keep going until they run out of bodies. Any other approach will simply fail because gang life is a cultural perversion that keeps replicating itself from generation to generation with all the folk-lore to encourage it.

  • pagegl

    This points out another problem with our educational system. It appears the teachers and their union leaders have no clue about cause and effect. No wonder they're afraid of being evaluated on performance.

    • steve bryant

      The problem is that Chicago teachers are a product of their own system. Which is why they don't have a clue. The chickens are coming to roost afterall!

  • Jeff Ludwig

    I taught in a school in New York City that was closed, and replaced by three small "academy" schools on the same campus. A few years later, the three schools were designated as "failing schools" and replaced by four new academy schools. I taught Social Studies. New York State requires a statewide test called a Regents in many subject areas. The number of students passing in Social Studies would vary between 19% and 32% for any given year. So our Mayors started closing schools and creating small schools squeezed together in buildings that formerly housed one school. Then they began putting pressure on teachers to give students higher grades and improve test scores to create an illusion of progress ("cosmetic changes"); yet there was no progress, even using the phonied up metrics that were devised to "prove" progress. So Mr. Ahlert is right: Chicago is "moving on" but it is doubtful that there will be progress.


      YOU should write a book – with lots of documentation.

  • jerome

    this ominous move is a sign that things are falling apart in the usa. the government cannot print money fast enough to keep up with its debt and interest payments.
    the world grows weary in the meantime of a currency that is soon to become worth much less and presages a time when the usa and its dominance are on the wane in every sector in world affairs…..

    • steve bryant

      No kidding. Why do they keep re-electing Democrats?

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

        The republicans wont' fight for another Boehner. They primary out as many as possible then just stay home when Rove puts a RINO against a democrat willing to have the dead vote dozens of times to win.

  • Sherri

    I am a parent that was forced to take my son out of a private well run school and put him in a Chicago Public School. The problem is with the administration, bad principals and bad teachers and lack of AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS. Poor people have to make a choice between staying at home to watch kids after school or letting child run around with no supervision. The best schools in Chicago have after school enrichment programs. The Principal, Joseph Peila, does not believe in an after school program so the kids have nothing to do after school except play video games or get into fights. He pays two full time people to translate all handouts into Spanish but could instead use that money for programs. The LSC meetings are during the DAY so working parents can not attend the meetings. He does not know how to send a mass email to communicate to parents. He caters to the illegal immigrants since they have no voice so he does not have to deal with the parents that complain about him. Pass a law REQUIRING LSC meetings be held AFTER 5pm! Some common sense would help CPS and stop crime.

  • JacksonPearson
  • Atikva

    What are the Chicago people complaining about? They elected Mr. Emmanuel, even though he wasn't even a Chicago resident at the time of the election. Now they are getting their reward.

    And incidentally, "racism" has no meaning for our leftist politicians, they just use the word as a weapon against anyone they fear could push them out of the gravy – period. They conveniently forget that it was the Democrats who founded the KKK, then made a 180 degree turn when it dawn on them that they could make use of their former victims to gain power. Apparently they never bothered to explain how this amazing change of heart happened.

    • steve bryant

      Good question Atikva. The next thing Chicagoans will do is move to places that are controlled by Republicans….and try to "help" them be progressive too! The country's only hope is that there are enough people who are intelligent enough to realize that they are inside the house they are helping to tear down.

    • Fritz

      Nobody elects anyone in Chicago, they are appointed by the central committee, I mean Democrat machine. It works like the old Soviet Union used to, goodbye old boss, hello new boss. What is not talked about is the exodus from Crook County to the suburbs, and even out of the state, people have had enough of these stupid games and are voting with their feet.

      • Atikva

        I heard that the situation was bad in Chicago, but I didn't know it was THAT bad!

        • Fritz

          Oh it really is, it's what happens anywhere when you have almost 60 years worth on one party rule. The current machine started under Richard Daley senior in 1956, he was a thug himself but not particularly anti American and he kept order, unlike the current crew. It's so bad that they even rig the primaries for their own party. A few years ago they had about 18 Chicago aldermen indicted for taking bribes. The whole state is notorious for dirty politics but Chicago/Crook Count (Cook County) is the epicenter of it. It needs a paradigm shift along the lines of Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. That being said Illinois has nothing on the Canadian Province of Quebec, or some European countries like Greece for that matter.

        • Jim_C

          There really is no other way to explain the election–and RE-ELECTION–of Rod Blagojevich as governor.

          But it's not just Chicago and the democratic machine, though they are the dominant player, for sure–it's what they call the "combine:" a fiefdom comprised of both parties. Hence our last two governors, R and D, sitting in jail. Hence, a really good man, Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R), gets shown the door by his own party after daring to stand up to combine politics.

  • Drakken

    Ok here is a solution to years of progressive problems, fire every teacher in Chi Town period. We have houndreds of thousands of unemployed veterans, hire them at a teachers salary to include housing. You now have the added benefit of disipline back in the classroom and where failure is not an option,students will learn, plus added benefit of security of the schools, a win win for everyone.

  • edgineer1

    More Democratic social engineering. And it is hilarious. Note that whites send their kids to "private" schools. Is it too painful to say "religious schools"?

  • pyeatte

    "I don’t see any Caucasians being moved, bussed, or murdered in the streets". Well, "Caucasians" are not stupid enough to live in a self-generated hell hole like these parts of Chicago.
    I have no sympathy for a people who celebrate gang-bangers.

  • Len_Powder

    In a shell game you keep moving the shells so that the people laying bets remained occupied and engaged and lose awareness of the money they're losing. Chicago politics works the same way. It doesn't stop long enough for the victims to realize they are losing money and moving backwards. The shysters who run the games are the beneficiaries and the players are the victims but they fail to see themselves as victims unless the shyster is Caucasian and Republican.

  • Fritz

    "As for the parents, in 12 of 13 city wards where black Americans comprise an overwhelming majority of the population, voting for the same Democrat is more than a reflex: in the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney did not receive a single vote."

    Remember that this is Chicago, Crook County, where the elections are so inclusive even the dead get to vote. Elections there are like Joseph Stalin once described elections in the old Soviet Union, "It doesn't matter how people vote it's who does the counting". In fact they have a similar saying "It doesn't matter how you vote you can't beat the machine" perhaps not, at least not until the collection agents padlock the doors, but people can and will continue to vote with their feet.
    Chicagoans, take a good look at Detroit, a city maybe two hours drive away from your own, that is your future 10 to 20 years down the road if you don't change. But even in Detroit the schools aren't as decrepit and useless as your own.

    • John Stone

      Now that they have wilding into some of the wealthy (white) areas, I doubt it will take twenty years for Chicago to become Detroit. The decline in tourism along with more white flight will further reduce the tax base, producing the predicted outcome. They will not have to worry about the city gov given whites preference because there will be so few whites to give preference to.

    • Jim_C

      Chicago's no Detroit. Detroit was a one-trick pony. But I hope you are right and there is a reckoning of some sort, whether it's people waking up in the nick of time, or whether reality forces the issue.

      And the "Chicago election fraud" is more a historic canard. The Machine doesn't need to cheat at voting: they do the ground work and BUY their support.

  • Moliminous

    “Do you have an idea that would ensure that 56 percent of the African-American male adolescents don’t drop out?" YES. Demand a Separation of School and State. Get government out of the business of schooling. Return that authority to their parents. Let them choose and support the school of their choice, one that reflects and sustains their family values, not the state's and not the union's.

    "Ideas are what matter, not insults. Do you have an idea of how to move not only our graduation rate, but our college attendance?” YES! Look around the country at the small but incredibly successful school choice programs. Look to the OSP program in Washington. When government gets involved, kids fail and continue to fail. When parents choose the school, students flourish. Graduation rates are far superior to their government/union counterparts and a much higher number is eligible to attend college. Time for a Separation of School and State.

  • Ghostwriter

    I lived in a suburb of Chicago for four years. The schools that were there weren't bad. It was a good city. It's a shame what it's become these days.

    • mlcblog

      The whole country!! I live in California where the schools were top in the nation, second only to New York. Now we rank 48th.

  • mlcblog

    Lewis is a clone. She knows nothing but the race card and also to go on strike for more money no matter what the circumstance, seemingly especially in response to dismal economic news. Not a clue of reality.

    I think it is rich that Rahm is challenging people on how to stay in school and achieve an efficient education in the disenfranchised communities. The left confronting the left. I love it.