Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has just ignited an educational and possibly racial firestorm in the Windy City. Obama’s former White House Chief of Staff is trying to cope with a billion dollar budget deficit for the city of Chicago.
In what could be his most controversial decision as mayor, Emmanuel just announced plans to close down 54 elementary schools. That alone may not be cause of concern to many, but when he announced which schools would be closing, the match was lit.
It seems that most of the schools of his choosing are all in predominately low-income black neighborhoods. They also happen to be located in high crime and gang areas of the city. But like his former employer that occupies the big white building in Washington, Emanuel was on a skiing vacation away from the city when he made the announcement.
Up to 30,000 students will be affected by the closings. Many students will have to travel to other schools that are farther from their homes, while others will suddenly find their classrooms filling to overflowing. According to Chicago Public Schools, the closures would save the city $560 million over 10 years and an additional $43 million per year in operating costs.
Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, has announced that she intends to do whatever she can to see that these closures do not take place. Commenting on Emanuel’s announcement, Lewis said:
“Rham Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: we don’t intend to die. This is not Detroit.”
A number of parents are also against the plan and say that it would endanger the lives of their children. Most parents say they are familiar with what areas are safe and which areas are unsafe, but to take your kids to new schools in new areas that they are unfamiliar with takes away that safety net and sense of security. Some parents have gone so far as to say they would not even allow their kids to go to these other schools because of the safety concerns.
I would think that the mayor’s decision to target schools in the low income black areas of Chicago should be questioned in regards to race and his elite status of being a multimillionaire. Emanuel grew up in a well-to-do Jewish family and became quite successful as a banker before entering politics. According to 2011 figures, Emanuel’s worth is somewhere between $7 million-$17 million. He makes $216,000 a year as mayor and yet he refused to give the city’s teachers their annual 4% raise.
If I were a low income black living in the areas targeted by Emanuel, I would be sorely tempted to ask why a wealthy Jew is targeting low income black schools and not those of others. Is he giving up on them and turning them over to their own devices? Hopefully, this will be the death knell that ends his political career.