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The City of Chicago recently closed 49 public elementary schools in an attempt to address budgetary and resource constraints. This is the largest wave of school closings in United States history, involving 10% of all public schools in Chicago, the third largest city in the country. Although there are many schools considered “underutilized” in Chicago, those that were targeted for closing were majority African American. The closings affected nearly 30,000 children and have had a disproportionate and negative impact on minority and disabled children. Displaced students will be packed into classrooms with more students, resulting in overcrowded classrooms. The school closings also place children at greater risk of violence and death as many children will be forced to cross gang lines on their way to new schools. The appointment structure of the Chicago Board of Education does not allow for democratic participation and indeed, by failing to pay heed to the widespread opposition to the school closings, the City of Chicago effectively denied people the right to participate in deciding whether or not to close the schools.

U.S. courts have failed to take action to stop the school closings. In August 2013, a federal district court judge denied a request for a preliminary injunction to stop the school closings filed by parents of children affected by the closings, with support from the Chicago Teachers Union. A separate request for an emergency injunction filed in federal court seeking to stop the closure of an elementary school with a large population of children with special needs was also denied. A third lawsuit filed by the Chicago Teachers Union in Cook County Circuit Court that sought to stop the closure of ten schools was also unsuccessful.

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