Speaking publicly for the first time since Chicago Public Schools announced that more than 50 schools are to close, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the motive behind the plan is to ensure that all children in Chicago receive a quality education.
Emanuel faced media Saturday afternoon during an unrelated press conference in the Pullman neighborhood. The mayor spoke softly and calmly when focus shifted to the CPS controversy that took place while he was on a family skiiing vacation in Utah.
“The decision to deal with the 54 schools was not taken lightly but it was taken with the notion of 'How do we make sure that every child can get to a quality school with a quality education?' Because you do not get a repeat on this,” Emanuel said. “And for too long we have not been able to do that for every child in the city of Chicago and for all of the families.”
Emanuel called education as “the great equalizer” and said the decisions behind the school closures all pointed back to equal education opportunities for children in Chicago.
“We have to make sure we are investing in quality education. This is very difficult and there's a lot of anguish -- I understand that and I appreciate it,” he said.
Emanuel said the backlash from closing the schools pales compared to the anguish that comes from “trapping children in schools that are not succeeding.”
When asked why he decided to close all of the schools at once, Emanuel said he and other decision-makers did not view the closures as “numbers on a spreadsheet.”
Emanuel acknowledged the strong language used by members of the Chicago Teachers Union in the wake of school closures, and said he's not interested in “schoolyard taunts.”
“I'm interested in making sure the schools are achieving what they're set up to do,” he said.
In response to concerns from parents about children being forced to cross gang lines when they attend their new schools, Emanuel said the budget for the Safe Passage initiative, a CPS program designed to help children get to and from school safely, will be doubled in the next year.
The mayor also said high schools, because of safety concerns, were not included in the school closure discussions.
“There are investments, and the Chicago Police Department was intimately a part of this review about increased resources both in the school as a safety perspective and cameras around the school from a safety perspective,” Emanuel said.Copyright © 2015, CT Now