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Judge: Chicago School Closings Can Proceed

A judge in Cook County, Ill., has denied a motion to stop 10 of the district's 49 planned school closings this year, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Chicago Teachers Union had filed a suit against the district, claiming that it did not follow its own guidelines for choosing which schools to close. That suit was just the latest measure the union and other activists have taken to try to stop the planned closings, which they have also claimed will disproportionately affect African-American students and neighborhoods.

"The district wrote the rules regarding the power given to the hearing officers, and when the officers' decisions weren't to their liking, CPS broke its own rules in overturning those decisions and voting to close 50 schools," said Karen Lewis, the president of the teachers' union, in a statement. "Today's ruling is unfortunate because it allows for the radical experiment that is being conducted on a great number of Chicago's children by the mayor's office and the board of education to continue."

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the district's CEO, said in a statement, "Today's ruling affirmed our belief that every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in life. However, for too long that has not been the case and children in certain parts of the city have been without the resources and support that they need to succeed in the classroom."

The district said in June that the closings would not necessarily reduce the district's deficit, but that they would help the district distribute its resources more intentionally.

The district is planning to provide a "safe passage" program for students who are worried about traveling to new schools. Families and students are concerned that the closings will exacerbate violence, as students from different neighborhoods begin attending school together for the first time and some students have to travel farther to get to their new schools. More than 11,000 families have requested assistance from the "safe passage" program so far.

Meanwhile, the Tribune is also reporting that the cuts to budgets for regular public schools in the district are greater than had been reported, while charter schools in the city are receiving more money this year.

Liana Heitin wrote about some of the challenges facing Chicago's teachers and former teachers—the district announced a second round of layoffs in July.

Chicago's not the only district bracing for school closings and big budget cuts as the new school year approaches: Philadelphia is shutting down more than 24 schools, and many of the reconfigured schools will be operating with brand new principals and bare-bones staff.

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