School-closing bravado from our fearless aldermen

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Alderman Proco Joe Moreno
  • Antonio Dickey/Sun-Times
  • Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno
It's easy to see who's losing as Mayor Emanuel presses on with his plan to close up to 129 public elementary schools.

Students, parents, teachers, and principals—you know, the people who are actually in those schools—will lose as more kids are crammed into fewer buildings so they will spend more time studying for standardized tests.

Remember: it's good for the kids!

But who are the winners?

Well, right off the top I can think of one collection of winners: our aldermen.

Suddenly, they have that rare opportunity to look big, bad, and bold by denouncing a mayoral initiative without having to actually vote against it.

After all, the ultimate school-closing decision will be made by the board of education, who are appointed by the mayor.

The aldermen have no official say. So what the hell—fire away!

Just last week Alderman Walter Burnett riled up the crowd at a school-closing hearing in Logan Square by denouncing plans to close Manierre and Jenner schools on the near-north side.

He even took the opportunity to call for a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, until the mayor and CPS figure out what they're going to do with the schools they have.

"I'm not going to allow any more charter schools, if you are going to close any other schools," Burnett said. "I'm not in the business of helping one thing at the expense of the other."

Give 'em hell, Alderman Burnett!

OK, I'll cut Alderman Burnett some slack, even if he's a little too loyal to the mayor for my tastes. He's from the neighborhood. Grew up in Cabrini-Green. Attended Jenner. He knew most of the people who showed up to protest the closings. I think he speaks from his heart.

But some of the other aldermanic bursts of outrage have been almost comical. At another hearing a few weeks back, Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno had to bellow above the boos and jeers of parents and teachers he was ostensibly supporting when he called on officials to keep Brentano open.

They were jeering because Alderman Moreno had openly supported the mayor over the teachers in last year's strike. In fact, he had gone on national TV to try to to out-Fox the Fox TV anchorwoman at bashing the union and calling for more charters.

Now when there's a room filled with angry voters, look who loves public schools.

And then there was Alderman Danny Solis, testifying at a hearing filled with Pilsen parents that he didn't want to close one school in their community.

This is the same man who helped build the United Neighborhood Organization, which is one of the fastest-growing charter school empires in Chicago.

I'll tell you what, aldermen. As long as you're so fired up about saving public education in Chicago, why not join the crusade for an elected school board or a moratorium on charters, instead of burying those movements in the City Council rules committee?

Apparently, the mayor's content to let the aldermen spout off at the school-closing hearings, knowing he's got their votes locked up when he needs them.

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