CITY HALL — A dozen religious leaders from the South and West sides delivered a letter to the mayor Wednesday asking him to "pull this plan off the table" on school closings.
Pastor Ira Acree, of the St. John Bible Church of Chicago in the Austin neighborhood, borrowed an African proverb to suggest the conflict between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union.
"When two elephants fight, the grass is the one that suffers," he said. "Our children are suffering."
Saying they were "speaking on behalf of the poorest and the most vulnerable," Pastor Marshall Hatch said, "There is no study that suggests any of these children are going to be better off educationally."
"He needs to pull this plan off the table," Hatch, of the New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in West Garfield Park, added.
The pastors said the closings would destabilize communities already reeling from gun violence, unemployment and vacancies.
"Don't destabilize these communities when there's already blood running in the street," said Pastor Gregory Livingston of the Mission of Faith Baptist Church in Roseland.
"Who would want to move into a neighborhood where there's no school within walking distance?" Acree said. "There is outrage in my community. There are more children in harm's way."
The Rev. Alvin Love of the Lilydale First Baptist Church in Roseland decried the hypocrisy of closing schools while approving new charters, saying, "It stretches the limits of integrity and rationality."
Hatch said he thought the community meetings leading up to the list's release had been ignored. "I didn't hear a living soul out of all the meetings I went to say, 'Close my school,'" he added.