Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Wednesday fired back at critics who have called the district's plan to close more than 50 schools racist because most are in predominantly African-American neighborhoods.
"These proposals have caused community anguish, and I understand that," Byrd-Bennett said. "But when status quo is not working, change is inevitable. What I cannot understand, and what I will not accept, are charges that the proposals I am offering are racist."
School closings opponents at Wednesday's Chicago Board of Education meeting immediately yelled back, "They are!"
Charges of racism have been leveled most prominently by Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who fired up a crowd at a downtown rally last week by pointing out that most of the students affected by the proposed closings are black. "Let's not pretend that's not racist," Lewis said.