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School Closure News Roundup: Byrd-Bennett Bristles At Racism Charges; Parents Urge Emanuel To 'Walk the Walk'

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 4, 2013 3:00PM

Photo credit: Rotating Frame

• Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett addressed critics of the school board's plan to close 54 schools who say it's rooted in racism during Wednesday's board meeting. Byrd-Bennett said that she was insulted "as a woman of color."

"To refuse to challenge the status quo that is failing thousands of African-American students year after year, consigning them to a future with less opportunities than others, that's what I call racist," she said.

Opponents of the closings at the meeting shouted back, "Yes they are."

• Byrd-Bennett also lashed out at parents concerned their children will have to cross gang lines to get to their new schools. She said she has no patience for parents and adults who use the “excuse of gangs to leave children trapped in failing schools.” Maybe Byrd-Bennett should walk the walks some of these schoolkids will have to negotiate in the fall. Many of those parents held a protest Tuesday outside City Hall urging Mayor Emanuel, who's taken a "nothing to see here" approach to the closures plan, to do the same. Fox News Chicago's Darlene Hill walked with parents from Henson Elementary on the West Side, which is slated to close, to Hughes Elementary, and crossed lots littered with needles and other drug paraphernalia.

Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

• CPS has cited population declines in the neighborhoods with schools slated for closure as a reason for the move. Chicago magazine's Whet Moser used Census tract data to map out the population declines in Chicago among children age 5-14 and found they are lower.

The city's population decreased about seven percent from 2000-2010. Its 5- to 14-year-old population decreased about 22 percent, or over 94,000. The biggest losses of any age and gender groups were five- to nine-year-old boys (26 percent) and girls (25 percent).

The gradient runs from more than 75 percent loss to a greater than 100 percent gain; in some cases, the change does represent a small change in raw numbers, according to the Census data. (Census tracts represent about 4,000 people; 5-14 year olds represent about 15 percent of the population on average, so a typical census tract would have about 600 kids, though that varies with actual tracts.)

• Catalyst Chicago is earning its keep right now. They've written about the status of students who were displaced in closings last fall (in short: not entirely good), analyzed the social and economic indicators of the neighborhoods where schools are slated for closure (again, not good), and, with the help of WBEZ, mapped out the percentage of previously closed schools that are now privately run (all together, not very good). This has WBEZ questioning the true demand for charter schools and found it to be overinflated by the school system and charter school advocates.

• Chicago police said about 700 to 900 people protested school closings in Daley Plaza on Wednesday. The Chicago Teachers Union says about 5,000 to 6,000 people were protesting. That's a pretty big difference. The Sun-Times estimates about 2,750 people based on an aerial photo.

• How much demand is there for charter schools? No one knows.

• It's hard for any student to adjust to a new environment, but the school closings are even more disruptive for special needs students.

• The new app Go2School is designed to help parents get their kids to their new school.

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