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Mayor Emanuel Breaks His Silence On School Closings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- They called him a racist. They called him the "Murder Mayor." After two days of silence, Mayor Rahm Emanuel finally speaks about the decision to close 53 Chicago public schools.

Mayor Emanuel Defends School Closing Plan

"This is very difficult. A lot of anguish and I understand that," said Mayor Emanuel.

The mayor says it's a decision he did not take lightly with 30,000 students caught in the middle.

The closings are concentrated on the city's south and west sides.

"This policy is racist, it's classist," said Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis, Thursday.

Mayor Emanuel responded, saying, "I'm not interested in throwing terms around or school yard taunts. I'm interested in making sure the schools are achieving what they're set up to do-- a high quality education."
Parents have expressed their concerns to CBS 2 since this decision was announced, saying their children will now have to walk through gang territories.

Mayor Emanuel says the he's doubling the budget for safe passage for students plus, "The Chicago Police Department was intimately a part of this review about both safety in the school from a safety perspective, and cameras around the school."

The mayor says consolidating schools was not about saving money.

"It has to be done so we can achieve the goal that every parent and everybody in the city wants, which is a child to have a high quality education."

The mayor also received a lot of criticism for being out of town when this big announcement was made.
""I had a family trip planned. Took it. You are not far ever from your office, and I was on the phone and emailing regularly with my office, but this plan has been developed over months, which we've been involved with and I will be involved with going forward," said Emanuel.

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union responded Saturday to the Mayors comments saying, "They've been closing schools for the past 12 years here and it hasn't improved instruction. It hasn't solved the budget deficits, but it has weakened communities."

CTU members have a protest rally set for Wednesday at Daley Plaza.

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