By
Melissa Harris Perry
updated 3/21/2013 10:48:04 PM ET 2013-03-22T02:48:04

Chicago Public Schools announced Thursday they plan to close 61 schools this year, disproportionately affecting the city's African-American families.

Updated, 6:22 p.m. ET: Chicago school officials announced Thursday they will close 54 school programs and 61 school buildings this year—nearly 13% of the city’s school buildingsaccording to the Chicago Tribune. Six additional schools will get “complete staff turnovers,” but will remain open. The closures will affect 30,000 students, and, if approved by the Chicago Board of Education, would be the largest mass school shutdown in U.S. history. 

Late Thursday, Mayor Emanuel released a statement reiterating the importance of investing in the proper resources to strengthen the city’s school system:

Over the past decade, this decision was delayed while we put more money into keeping buildings open rather than investing it where it should be – in our children’s education. Now, we will be able to utilize resources to better our children’s future, because every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in life. By consolidating these schools, CPS can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school. Like school systems in New York and Philadelphia where schools are being closed, Chicago must make tough choices. Our children’s futures are bright and consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city’s students get the resources they need to learn and succeed.

A full list of the proposed school and program closures can be found here.

After months of debates, the city of Chicago is preparing to announce the closure of more than 50 schools in the city in order to close a $1 billion deficit. The announcement, which broke late Wednesday, is expected Thursday evening.

Chicago Public School and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration looked at 129 schools in the district and chose about 50 to close, per the Chicago Tribune, citing under-enrollment as a major reason, and added that the cutbacks would not stop there:

In addition to closing about 50 schools, sources said the district will consolidate or overhaul staff at a number of other schools, bringing the total number of school actions to about 70. Urban districts around the country have been forced to close large numbers of schools, but if the number in Chicago holds it would likely be the largest number of schools shut down by a city in a single year in recent history.

The school closures will hit thousands of parents, children, and staff across Chicago, and disproportionately affect the district’s African-American community. Alderman Carrie Austin of the 34th ward told the Tribune she had not been informed of which schools in her Far South Side ward would be closed, but that many of the schools on the chopping block were located in predominantly black neighborhoods on the south and west sides.

Chicago Public Schools has until March 31 to announce its final list of closures, according to the Associated Press—but the list will not be final until late May after a vote from the Chicago Board of Education.

Editor’s note: this post has been updated to include Mayor Emanuel’s statement.

See below the recent discussion about violence and food insecurity at Chicago’s Harper High from the March 10 edition of Melissa Harris-Perry.

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