The Chicago Board of Education was expected to take a final vote Wednesday on whether to close 53 schools, an ambitious proposal that sparked protests and lawsuits and could help define — for better or worse — Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office.
City officials say the closings are necessary because of falling school enrollment and as part of their efforts to improve the city's struggling education system. But critics have blasted Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff, and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, saying the closings disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.
They planned to protest outside the board's meeting Wednesday and were sending busloads of teachers, parents and students to Springfield to lobby lawmakers to approve a moratorium on the closings. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis also pledged to start a voter registration drive in an attempt to register 200,000 new voters before the 2015 municipal elections — when Emanuel will be up for re-election — and to raise funds to support candidates for mayor, city council and statewide office.