Chicago School Board Votes To Close 49 Schools

CHICAGO (AP) -- The Chicago Board of Education has made a final vote to close 50 schools.

The ambitious proposal that sparked protests and lawsuits could help define -- for better or worse -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office. The board voted Wednesday.

City officials say the closings are necessary because of falling school enrollment and as part of their efforts to improve the city's struggling education system. But critics have blasted Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, saying the closings disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.

Protesters rallied during the board's meeting Wednesday. They also sent busloads of teachers, parents and students to Springfield to lobby lawmakers to approve a moratorium on the closings.