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Mayor Defends School Closings Despite 'Political Consequence'

By Ted Cox | May 21, 2013 2:22pm | Updated on May 21, 2013 2:25pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of school closings: "If it was easy politically, it would've been done" before.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of school closings: "If it was easy politically, it would've been done" before.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

BACK OF THE YARDS — A day ahead of the Chicago Board of Education's final vote on proposed school closings, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday he was not concerned how the decision would  affect him politically.

Weighing the "political consequence to me" against the "lifetime consequence to a child" who drops out after receiving a poor education, Emanuel said "the goal is to make sure every child has a high-quality education." 

"Not doing anything would be a political concern to me," he added.

"No consequence, to me, is greater than not allowing children access to a high-quality education," Emanuel said. "I will absorb the political consequence so our children have a better future."

The mayor said the district had been debating school closings for a decade and action was overdue. "If it was easy politically, it would've been done" before, he added.

Emanuel adopted a hands-off posture toward the school board he appointed.

"You don't know what they're gonna do," he said about whether they would remove any schools from the proposed list of 54 to be closed.

"I want to compliment the board for taking their responsibility for our children seriously and being willing to be held accountable," Emanuel said, lauding a "thoughtful and deliberative" process.

"There's been a lot of discussion from where we were five months ago," he said, emphasizing how that process had winnowed the number of schools potentially to be closed from more than 300 down to 129 that could be closed on "utilization" grounds to the current 54.

He said he expected Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett to work throughout the summer on safe-passage plans and smoothing the way for schools to welcome those students displaced by closings.

Emanuel made the remarks at a South Side news conference trumpeting the start of "construction season," in which the city will put 6,500 people to work replacing water mains, sewers and roadways over the summer, as well as the Red Line construction.