128 legal aid attorneys release an ‘open letter seeking justice in the school closing crisis’

On the eve of the Chicago Board of Education’s Wednesday vote on whether to merge 108 Chicago elementary schools, 128 legal aid attorneys have signed on to “an open letter seeking justice in the school closing crisis.”

“Together we reflect many decades of experience working with lower income children, youth and families in communities of color,” the group of lawyers writes.

The attorneys urge Mayor Emanuel, the Board of Education, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett to reconsider going forward with the largest mass closure of public schools in the U.S. As proposed by CPS, more than 45,000 students would be impacted, including more than 3,900 homeless children and teens. 

The attorneys’ five-page letter notes that the closures, mergers and school turnarounds proposed by CPS overwhelmingly impact “dramatically impoverished” African-American neighborhoods on the South Side and West Side – a disparity that is “provoking racial and economic divisiveness.”

The CCH Law Project helped mobilize support for the open letter. CCH attorneys Laurene Heybach, Patricia Nix-Hodes and Elizabeth Cunningham are among the 128 to sign on. Chicago Daily Law Bulletin interviewed several of the signers, including Ms. Heybach.