Where was Chicago mayor when school closings were announced?


Rahm Emanuel / Paul Beaty (AP)

Where was Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel when city officials made the controversial announcement that the district would close 54 public schools this year, the largest number of public schools to close in a mass action in the country’s history?

Emanuel wasn’t in Chicago on Thursday. He wasn’t in Illinois. He was on a skiing vacation out West with his family because his children are on spring break, Chicago media reported.

This isn’t to begrudge the mayor a vacation with his family, but it is to wonder why the controversial decision to close 54 schools — most of them in the African-American and Hispanic communities — was made when he wasn’t in town. Shouldn’t the mayor have been there to announce such a historic moment in his administration of Chicago?

Chicago Teachers Union President Nancy Lewis, who blasted the closings in this statement at a press conference outside Mahaila Jackson Elementary School, said:

I also find it extremely cowardly for the mayor’s administration to announce these actions while he is vacationing out of town. They are also making this announcement days before people are headed into spring break.

 

Emanuel’s children attend the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Hyde Park, where, incidentally Education Secretary Arne Duncan went to school when he was growing up. Certainly the decision where to send your children to school is a personal one, but it is worth noting when public officials who support standardized test-based school reform for public schools send their kids to private schools that don’t force those tests on their students. The Chicago Lab schools certainly doesn’t.

In fact, some teachers from the school signed an open letter to Duncan protesting his school reform policies. It said in part:

We feel strongly that big money is far too invested in the current debate, and we are concerned that their influence is determining much of what passes for “reform.” Put your faith in teachers rather than corporate interests to assess reading, writing, and speaking. Do not allow corporations to control American education.

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · March 21, 2013