As the top official in Cook County government, Toni Preckwinkle didn’t have any formal say in the decision by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his education team to shutter 54 Chicago elementary schools.
But she does have a few thoughts on the matter. Like: What are they thinking?”
I talked to a member of the school board that I knew and said what a terrible idea I thought it was,” Preckwinkle told me in an interview. “You know, schools are community anchors. They’re social centers. They’re part of a community’s identity. And often kids go half a dozen blocks and they’re in different gang territory.”
The closings are going to take place almost entirely within the African-American community, and given the problems we already have with violence, I think it’s very problematic.”
Preckwinkle, the county board president, wasn’t just venting. The county oversees the local criminal justice system, and she’s made a priority of reducing the number of people caught up in it—along with the cost to taxpayers. I had stopped by her office to discuss the recent news that the population of the county jail has surged despite her goals. It was disturbing how smoothly the conversation shifted to school closings. More…