Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the anguish of closing 54 schools pales in comparison to the damage done by "trapping" kids in failing schools.
Emanuel spoke publicly Saturday for the first time since Chicago Public Schools officials announced the closings this week. It is the largest number of CPS schools to be closed in a single year.
Critics say the plan disproportionately affects minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.
Emanuel says he knows shuttering schools will be difficult. But he says it's necessary if all students are going to receive a quality education.
CPS currently has more than 500,000 seats and about 403,000 students. The district also is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall.