Nightly News   |  March 22, 2013

Chicago closing 54 schools in face of $1 billion deficit

In Chicago, 30,000 kids will be moved to different schools: most of them black, on the city's South and West sides. And Chicago's not the only city where budget problems are forcing big changes in the public schools. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> now to chicago and the outrage expressed over mayor rahm emanuel 's plan to close dozens of that city's public schools . 30,000 kids will be moved to different schools, most of them black on the city's south and west sides. chicago 's not the only city where budget problems are forcing big changes in the public schools . our chief education correspondent rehema ellis is in detroit tonight after an all day conference as part of our education nation initiative. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. detroit is like a lot of cities struggling with budget deficits and closing schools like the one behind me. proposed shut-downs in chicago are more and bigger than any city has attempted, all at one time. outrage intensified as word spread. 54 public schools in chicago are slated to close at the end of this school year.

>> my child has been here since he's been going to school.

>> it's so sad to think that they are all going to be separated.

>> reporter: the city is working to address a $1 billion dpeficit and says the closures could save $560 million over ten years. before it can save it has to spend. $223 million to reconfigure the schools absorbing new students.

>> this policy is racist, classist and we have to continue to say that our mayor who is away on a ski trip drops this information right before spring break. this is cowardly. it's the ultimate bullying job. mayor rahm emanuel should be ashamed of himself.

>> reporter: mayor emanuel claims too much money is spent on underutilized schools with with empty classrooms saying the city should focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school. with neighborhoods plagued by gang violence many worry about kids' safety.

>> it's hard because the kids are getting killed. that's my only fear -- that they are not going to be safe.

>> reporter: another concern, the communities themselves.

>> this personally is an attack on our kids. this is an ait can on our communities. we're closing down schools and opening liquor stores.

>> reporter: kansas city , milwaukee, detroit and pittsburgh are among those that shuttered dozens in recent years. by the end of this school year, both washington, d.c. and philadelphia intend to close even more.

>> district budgets have been really tight since the recession. there is no sign of new money coming down the line.

>> reporter: while chicago is planning to close dozens of oh traditional public schools they are also planning to open more public charter schools . that's also got people outraged. they are worried public education as we know it may eventually disappear all together. brian?

>> rehema ellis, our chief education correspondent tonight. thanks.