By James B. Kelleher and Mary Wisniewski

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Chicago will close 54 schools and 61 school buildings by the beginning of the next academic year in the country's third-largest public school district, a move that education experts called the largest mass closing in the nation.

The district will shutter 53 elementary schools and one high school, primarily in Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods. The district, which has a $1 billion annual deficit, has said it needs to close underutilized schools to save money.

Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has fallen 20 percent in the last decade, mainly because of population declines in poor neighborhoods. The district said it can accommodate 511,000 students, but only about 403,000 are enrolled. It said that nearly 140 of its schools are more than half empty.

The controversial decision to close dozens of schools follows a bitter strike by Chicago teachers last September, fought partly over the Chicago Teachers Union's accusation that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was undermining community schools in poor areas of the city.

The 61 closings account for about 10 percent of elementary school facilities, according to the school district.

"Consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city's students get the resources they need to succeed in the classroom," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

The union objects to school closings, saying they destabilize minority neighborhoods and would not save money.

"They keep saying that closing schools is going to save money," said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis. "This will not save money. It's going to cost money and it's going to leave abandoned buildings, which is another recipe for disaster."

During a news conference at Mahalia Jackson Elementary School, which is marked for closing, Lewis accused Emanuel of being on a ski trip when the announcement was made.

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel should be ashamed of himself. Shanda!" Lewis said, using the Yiddish word for shame or scandal. Both Lewis and Emanuel are Jewish.

The staff of the mayor, whose children attend private school, were not immediately available to comment on his whereabouts.

Several parents don't want to see the schools closed.

"It took three schools to find the right place for my grandchild," said Menjiwei Latham, a grandparent and guardian of a student at the Mahalia Jackson Elementary School, which serves special-needs students.


Urban school districts around the country have been grappling with the issue of declining enrollment, according to a 2011 study on school closings by the Pew Charitable Trust.

Over the past decade, 70 large or mid-sized cities have closed schools, averaging 11 per district, according to the National Education Association, a labor union for school teachers.

This includes Washington, D.C., which closed 23 schools in 2008 and plans to close 15 more over the next two years. Philadelphia announced earlier this month that it would close 23 schools.

Education experts contacted by Reuters on Thursday said no other single district has closed as many schools as Chicago would in the announcement.

At the heart of the dispute over school closings in Chicago is the expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded, but mostly non-unionized. The number of charter schools has risen even as neighborhood public schools are closed.

The union said 88 percent of students affected by Chicago school closings or other actions in the past decade were African-American and most closed schools have been in poor neighborhoods. The union said 86 Chicago public schools have closed in the past decade. The district has not provided its own number.

Chicago has promised a five-year moratorium on school closings, following this year.

A commission appointed to hold public meetings and hearing community feedback on school closings over recent months recommended that no high schools be closed to avoid making students cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.

Parents and school activists have complained that closing neighborhood schools endanger students because they are exposed to greater gang violence if they cross neighborhood boundaries. Chicago recorded 506 murders due to gang violence in 2012, and its homicide rate continues to draw national attention.

(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski and James Kelleher in Chicago and Stephanie Simon in Boston; Editing by Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

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I have relatives in Chgo who have abused the education system.  Not to be

believed some of what they and their co workers have gotten away with.

Chgo is a city totally out of control and quite frightening for those who live

in many of the areas and the crime is now spilling into the western suburbs.

Teens not in school will go where?  Great leader Rhambo.  Jo D

America is getting dumber every day.

There is no fixing libtard stupidity (logic) and Shitcago is the capital of it.

Sounds like the other Chicago "Philly", & " Detroit" both run by radical Lib's

You have to understand the way Emanuel thinks. He knows the kids weren't learning anything anyway, so why not close the schools down and use the abandoned buildings as homeless shelters.

 As long as the Unions are in the Schools, the education of the Kids today is in the sewer. These Liberal Idiots are the ones destroying education in America. They do not teach the truth about America any more. As long as we have illegals in our school it will also be in the sewer. Until the American People get up off their azzes and take it to our Political Leaders, nothing is going to every change in America. Americans have gotten so dam LAZY nothing will ever change and things will keep heading down the hill into the sewers even more

The patient was notified 60 years ago  by  Senator Joseph McCarthy that her insanity was progressive.  The Liberal Media, yellow journalism, and fellow travelers gored the Senator until he had a heart attack and died.  They called him "the little chicken farmer" from Wisconsin.  Even yet, the nation is in denial.  So let it be known henceforth:  "A communist dictatorship is nearly complete."  Look up the word "sequester" in your dictionary.  Why bring that word out at the time we are 16 trillion in the red ?  Then think about it---who's property will be "sequestered" for payment? Why has the word "patriot"  taken on an evil patina?  Why, when school children point their fingers at someone as though their finger was a gun, does the child get kicked out of school for a time?  I sorta wish every school child in America would point their finger and click their tongue at every public school official 50 times every day until this insanity ends. Then visit the U.S. Senate and house, and do the same thing

In the early days, of the American Frontier, people picked up few few belongings, packed them into covered wagons, and headed West, seeking a better life, some left, because they were trying to farm, and were seeking better land, others just didn't like being around so many people, others felt that they would have a much better chance, in the opportunities opening up in the West.  These people did not have it easy, but they had decided they were not in an ideal location, so they moved out of it. Chicago offers just exactly what?  Crime, murder, gangs, area ruled by Thugs since the 1920's. What possible future is there, in a place this totally corrupted, a cess pool of Crime, lead by Rham Emmanuel.  It takes courage, to just stand up, and say "No, I won't subject myself and my family to this anymore" and pack what you have, and get the hell out of there.  Anywhere you went would be better, just think, there are communities where crime is not rampant, your kids can go to school, and you can earn a living.  It is out there, so I say to those suffering, get the hell out of there.  You are not helpness, and you can change your future. It is up to you.

Chicago needs to be shut down...just like Detroit




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