By Yana Kunichoff
In the fall of 2012, the fear of school closings was one of the main catalysts for the historic Chicago Teachers Union strike, which saw tens of thousands of teachers walk off the job.
The Chicago Public Schools district had already closed 86 schools in the previous decade on the basis of low test scores and, more recently, arguments that the buildings were underutilized. At the time of the strike, rumors were circulating that up to 120 more schools were on the chopping block.
Though the district did not apparently respond to these rumors during the strike, in February 2013, the school board officially released its list of schools slated for closure. Of the more than 276 schools initially considered, 50 had their doors shut for good for the 2013-2014 school year, despite citywide protests and school occupations by parents. The impact fell heavily on Chicago’s African-American students—and teachers. Of the 49 closed elementary schools, 90 percent had a majority African-American demographic, while 71 percent had a majority African-American staff of teachers, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. All in all, the closings amounted to shuttering 25 percent of all CPS schools that had majority African-American students.