Sep 2, 2013
School has started back up in Chicago. For students from the 49 elementary schools Rahm Emanuel closed last spring, this means a new, much longer walk to school.
In a huge dog-and-pony show, Emanuel expanded the so-called “Safe Passage” program, positioning more than 1200 workers (paid $10 an hour) along 92 routes between the schools, supposedly to protect children from gang violence. Emanuel said, “The ultimate goal of all efforts – both in the building, on the way to the building and at home – is so kids will think about their studies, not their safety.”
What a crock! If Emanuel were truly concerned about the kids’ safety OR their studies, he and his hand-picked school board would not have closed those 49 schools in the first place!
The Board announced the closing of those elementary schools last spring after months of protests by parents and teachers. The school closings are in overwhelmingly poor, working class and minority neighborhoods. Sometimes families and neighbors had been attending the same school for generations and participating in extracurricular activities there after school. The schools truly were the hearts of these neighborhoods, and their closing rips out those hearts.
Now Emanuel and his Board are forcing children – some as young as four years old – to travel miles to a different public school. Or, to attend a charter school closer to home. They’re driving students out of the public schools, and into charters!
The Board says it closed those schools because they are “underused.” Underused? Elementary schools whose class sizes have finally gotten down to 17 students are underused? How will it be better for young children to be crowded into classes with more than 30 students in them?
Underused? Of course the schools are underused – after the district has gotten rid of gym classes, music and art programs, libraries, and nurses’ stations, of course there is space not being used in those schools. That space SHOULD be used! Not closed down!
Parents are rightly upset over the closing of their neighborhood schools. But in the face of that anger, Emanuel chooses to focus on “Safe Passage” zones, blaming gangs – blaming kids themselves – as the problem.
It’s the height of disgusting cynicism.