CTU hosts voter registration drive, aims to have Mayor Emanuel ousted in 2015 over school closings

May 23, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The mayor says there will be benefits to closing under-utilized schools. But the head of the Chicago Teachers Union hopes this will motivate voters to elect a new mayor in 2015.

The Chicago Teachers Union began a voter registration drive Thursday night. The aim is to turn those upset with the school closures into votes against Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team.

Meanwhile, the mayor is not sitting still. He is on to the next phase of his controversial plan to close dozens of public schools.

The mayor and CPS chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett moved from room to room at the Brennemann School, 4200 N. Clarendon, for a half-dozen joint interviews on as many different media outlets.

"We have to continue, continue, continue to talk about the benefits of all of our actions, the benefits to children," said Byrd-Bennett.

As the CPS board voted to shutter 50 under-utilized schools within the next year, opponents sharply Criticized Byrd-Bennett and Emanuel for actions that the mayor says should have begun years ago.

"There were a lot of deferred decisions," Emanuel said. "But the goal of either one of us is not to figure out who to blame but how to fix the problem to make sure all of our children have high-quality education."

"We need to change the political landscape," said Karen Lewis.

Lewis, the president of Chicago's 30,000 member teachers union, blames Emanuel for his policies she characterized as anti-neighborhood.

The union has launched a voter registration drive aimed at defeating the mayor's re-election in 2015 and supporting other alternative candidates.

"We're going to look at people for aldermanic offices," Lewis said. "We're going to look at people for the state house offices in addition to statewide and also, of course, the mayor."

"We have two years before the next election. That's two school years," said Emanuel. "Let's focus on our children and give them an opportunity. There's plenty of time for politics."

The mayor and Byrd-Bennett must convince parents their children will learn as well in larger classrooms in the soon-to-be larger welcoming schools.

Principal Sarah Abedelal credited under-utilized Brennemann's high test scores to its low class sizes. Then she insisted the school could do as well with twice as many students.

"Size does matter, but when you look at effective teaching, effective teaching strategies, you can teach students double that size," said Abedelal.

CPS officials say the principals will play the most important role in convincing parents the closing/consolidation process can work.

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