Chicago now has 145,000 fewer school-age children than it had more than a decade ago, according to district data, and the district had already closed about 100 schools since 2001. In March, the Chicago Public Schools identified 53 more elementary schools that it planned to shutter, expecting to save about $500 million over 10 years in a district facing a $1 billion deficit.
This is a sad day for many people. During the two hours of public comment leading up to the Board’s vote, emotions were running high, and protesters had to be escorted out of the room. But Chicago has long been in decline, and cutbacks need to be made to suit new realities.Rather than focus on the school closures, angry residents should look at the blue policies that brought the city to this point. Years of broken and corrupt politics have left the city with a $1 billion budget deficit, a soaring crime rate, and constant tension between the government and unions. The pain has fallen worst on the poor and minority communities, and they are responding by getting out. Over the past decade, Chicago’s black population declined by 17 percent, as blacks fled the for the suburbs or the more promising economies of the South. The windy city is now at its lowest population since before 1920. No wonder the schools are closing.Chicago’s problems are not unique. Approximately 1.3 million blacks left the North for southern cities between 2000 and 2010. Black populations in Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston have surged. Northern cities, once the promised land for the nation’s black population, have failed to create the kind of economic and social conditions necessary to build a stable black middle class.We hear lots of talk about how brilliant liberal economic policies are, but we rarely see stories of millions of people emerging triumphantly out of poverty thanks to all the wonderful things expensive government programs are doing for the citizens of these places. Perhaps our President should spare a thought for what’s happening in the city he once called home.[Closed school image courtesy of Shutterstock]