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The [Friday] Papers

"With Chicago Public Schools facing a financial meltdown, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration on Thursday targeted 61 school buildings for closing, unleashing a torrent of criticism from anxious parents, children and teachers as well as aldermen," the Tribune reports.

Is CPS facing a financial meltdown? I'm not convinced.

But let us continue.

"Officials said the shutdowns would affect 30,000 students, almost all in kindergarten through eighth grade and most now attending poorly performing schools in African-American neighborhoods on the South and West sides where enrollment has sagged in recent years."

That's more than three times the size of Northwestern's student body. It's slightly more than the entire population of Wilmette. It's slightly less than the entire population of Lichtenstein. The logistics are mind-boggling. It's the largest school closing in U.S. history. In the hands of CPS. Our CPS. This CPS.


"Savings from closing schools, though, won't kick in immediately."

If at all. That's another assumption that is far more specious claim than plausible fact.

"The debate is complicated by the fact that CPS has not reaped the benefits of closing schools in the past," Catalyst Chicago reported last October.


"Officials estimate school upgrades and enhanced security and other transition costs will add $233 million to expenses in the short term, most of it paid for through bond debt at a time when the district's credit rating has dropped."

Or CPS could buy Manchester United.


"But for many parents and children, Thursday's announcement means only that they're being displaced from familiar neighborhood schools and will face in some cases longer - and scarier - walks to class over busy streets that crisscross competing gang territories."

Well, as Richard M. Daley said in 2009, "The day that the city of Chicago decides to divide schools by gang territory, that's the day we have given up the city."


"Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th, said school officials have tried to ease his concerns over closings and security by offering perks to schools in his ward that will remain open.

"They're talking about giving me (International Baccalaureate) programs, (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs, air conditioning for my schools," he said.

"I think they should have been doing these things already. And I don't want to take those things at the stake of somebody losing their life. And I'm telling you, that's what's going to happen. I don't want to take air conditioning and then have somebody's blood on my hands."

"Other improvements officials promised for welcoming schools include air conditioning in every classroom and a library with new books and digital material. However, the district acknowledged that most schools taking in displaced students already have libraries and only four will need to be added."

Besides the fact that CPS officials have suddenly gotten the CTU's religion about air conditioning and libraries, it appears they are only offering such amenities to schools that don't necessarily need them. Which isn't a real rigorous way of doling out resources, which is just the issue they say they are trying to fix.


"The district also pledged to provide iPads to third- through eighth-grade students at schools taking in displaced students."


"Becky Carroll, a CPS spokeswoman, said closings would help the district concentrate resources at schools in struggling communities.

"These are communities that have historically been underserved, and what (Byrd-Bennett) wants to do as a result of this process is give children in those communities all the support that they need to have a quality education," Carroll said.

Underserved by who? Daley was the mayor for 22 years, during which time he took direct control of the city's schools. Just say it. Say his name. I'm begging you.


Barbara Byrd-Bennett asked scornfully on Chicago Tonight last night - and then again on WGN-TV's 9 o'clock news - where all the "audacious" voices opposing school closings were when their schools were deteriorating.

Um, right here, fighting against the very policies of the very people you now blame for this very predicament. Where were you?


Where was Rahm? Aiding and abetting Daley.


Where was Carroll? Working for Daley and Rod Blagojevich.


Let me tell you something, Barbara: Those audacious voices have been in the shit since day one.


"The school closing debate has been running full tilt since November, when Emanuel persuaded state lawmakers to extend a statutory deadline to announce closings for next school year from December to the end of March."

That deadline was enacted to insure there was adequate time to plan for transitioning students to new schools. When a dozen schools at most would be closed in a single year.


"Charters, which Emanuel also frequently touts, will also profit from the move to merge schools. Altogether, six charters will be allowed to expand or open new campuses in underenrolled neighborhood schools, including some high schools."

Or, as Lafayette Elementary parent Rosemary Vega says in this report:

"They say it's underutilized, but there's a charter school being built right now down the block . . . Why do they get the resources and we don't?"


"CPS has closed schools in the past, but never more than a dozen in a year. Cawley said 24 previously closed buildings have been put up for sale, with a handful receiving bids."

So get ready for a bunch of empty buildings in our most devastated neighborhoods. What will be the additional cost to police enforcing their broken-windows strategy?


"Initially, CPS pitched massive school closings as a savings measure in light of a projected $1 billion deficit," WBEZ reports.

"Thursday, district officials used other arguments: 'Fundamentally this work is about improving the educational opportunities for our students,' said Todd Babbitz, who's overseeing the closings for the district. 'We do as a district today have resources that are spread much, much too thin. We are spending way more on buildings that we believe are unnecessary in our footprint.'

Todd Babbitz is an MBA from McKinsey. Told ya so.


"School closings are being pushed across the country as a cost savings solution, despite studies that show they tend to save little money."

Oh, the rich irony of CPS ignoring its studies.


That's enough for today. You can catch up with more school closings commentary via our Twitter feed.

The Political Odds
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The Week In Chicago Rock
They played at a venue near you on Wednesday night.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Melting.


Posted on March 22, 2013

MUSIC - Millions Of New Guitar Players.
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BOOKS - China Holding Swedish Publisher.


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