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Critics Slam Emanuel For School Closings, Campaign Ads On Education

The Chicago Teachers Union, parents, and other critics on Thursday accused Mayor Rahm Emanuel of misleading the public when he trumpets his achievements in early childhood education.

The criticisms came as Emanuel was confronted by the controversial and polarizing decision his administration backed to close dozens of schools across the city.

Emanuel's campaign ads have hailed the expansion of Pre-K education to 2,600 children, saying he's fighting for Pre-K classes for every 4-year-old in the city.

However, CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter said the results of the Pre-K expansion have been quite the opposite.

"Over 1,600 students declined an enrollment in Pre-K programs during this mayor's administration. That's unacceptable to make the claim that he's expanded access, when people are having a harder time accessing those programs," he said.


CTU officials insisted enrollment in Pre-K programs has declined, partly because of difficulties parents face when they try to sign up.

At a City Hall press conference, parents spoke of difficulties enrolling their children in Pre-K programs.

"I had to go to 47th and State Street just to enroll my child in a school that was on 22nd and California. Now, how right is that? If Pre-K is for all, how do you give us so many hurdles?" said Zerlina Smith, a local school council member at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy.

Parents at the press conference criticized Emanuel's closing of 50 schools, which they noted isn't mentioned in his campaign ads. They said his ads referencing the Pre-K program should not run.

For the record, CTU has backed challenger Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in the race for mayor.

The school closings undertaken by Chicago Public Schools under the mayor's control more than any other may haunt Emanuel as he seeks re-election.

"We know that the impact of the school closings have devastated many communities," says one of Emanuel's opponents, Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.

Yet in a 45-minute campaign speech on his education policy, Emanuel never mentioned the closings. Then he was pressed to address the issue.

"It was the most difficult and wrenching decision," the mayor said.

"I didn't want to do it, but keeping kids locked in failing schools to fail consistently, I didn't run for mayor to do that. And if it was my political future versus their educational future, I'd put my political future on the line so they get a better education."

But memories of the mass protests over inner-city school closings still threaten to crowd out gains in graduation rates, increased options for parents, and the mayor's new focus on improving high schools.

"High schools can be the reason parents stay in the city rather than leave for the suburbs," Emanuel said.



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