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“We have called for a moratorium on all school actions until we have an analysis of the devastating impact these actions have on our students and neighborhoods,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis in a statement.
Emanuel said that, in the wake of the strike settlement, the district needs to have a more effective education plan.
“We have more buildings, chairs, tables and desks than we have students in our district,” he said in a statement.
The Chicago Tribune has reported that school district officials are considering closing up to 120 schools next year, or about 17 percent of schools in the 400,0000-student district. The district said there is no list of targeted schools.
Enrollment in Chicago Public Schools has fallen nearly 20 percent in the last decade, mainly because of population declines in poor neighborhoods.
Some 140 schools are half-empty, according to the district. The union said 86 Chicago public schools have closed in the past decade, but the district could not confirm that number.
At the heart of the dispute is the expansion of charter schools, which are publicly funded but most are non-union.
The teachers union has complained they undermine public education and force more community schools to close. Their academic performance record compared with community schools is mixed, according to national studies.
Chicago now has 103 charter or “contract” schools, some run by philanthropists, which account for 12 percent of students. There are plans by supporters for 60 more charter schools over the next five years, according to the district and the union.
A powerful U.S. education movement is pushing charter schools. Emanuel and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former Chicago schools chief, argue that schools performing poorly in academics should either be closed permanently, reopened with new principals and teachers, or converted to charter schools run by non-union personnel.
Teachers say they want more resources put into neighborhood public schools to help them succeed.
One Chicago school that has already been marked for a gradual closing is Dyett High School on the city’s South Side. The school’s academic standing is low, with a graduation rate of 33.7 percent in 2011 compared with 57.5 percent for Chicago public schools on average and a national rate of 75 percent.
But Kitesha Reggs, whose daughter attends Dyett, said the school lacks needed resources such as up-to-date books or enough computers. Reggs said that once Dyett closes, students may have to travel far for an alternative.
“It’s just a safety issue,” Reggs said. “They should be in their own neighborhood.”
School district spokeswoman Becky Carroll said that for this year, academic criteria would not be used to determine school closings.