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Take a recess from closing public schools

George Curry | 6/3/2013, 9:31 a.m.

Chicago is not the only major city that has overpromised and under delivered in public education.

Administrators in Washington, D.C., boasted about how much money they would save by closing a group of schools.

Pointing to a report by the Office of the D.C. Auditor, CREATE noted, “The audit determined that instead of saving the district $30 million, as claimed by former schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, the closures actually cost the city $40 million after factoring in the expense of demolishing buildings, removing furnishings, and transporting students.

“Further, the district lost another $5 million in federal and state grants as students left the system, many to charter schools being built in tandem with the closings.”

With all the lip service paid to public education by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, he has not been willing to put his money where his mouth is. Instead of investing in a school system still reeling from a teachers’ strike last fall, he has announced plans for the city to fund a new 12,000-seat basketball arena for DePaul University – a private school.

Under the plan, the facility will be built with $125 million in public funds, including about $55 million in tax-increment financing and $70 million in hotel and transportation taxes. The facility will be built near McCormick Place.

“Our biggest concern is killing the neighborhood with a venue that sits vacant for most of its useful life and, the only time it is used, it’ll be largely for an alcohol-focused sporting venue that will bring unwanted rowdiness, security and parking issues,” Tina Feldstein, president of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “There are 18 DePaul home games. Let’s add in other convention events. Add Rush Arena football. You could add and add and add and you’re still going to end up with a massive facility that will sit vacant for most of its useful life and not add any value economically.”

Or, educationally.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge and George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook.