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JASON KEYSER
Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago Public Schools officials say they will close 54 schools as part of a plan to address the district's $1 billion deficit.

District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Thursday announced which schools would be targeted for closure.

Byrd-Bennett and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel say the closures are necessary because too many school buildings are half-empty. The district says it has seats for more than 500,000 students but has only about 403,000.

District officials say money spent on underutilized schools could be better used elsewhere.

The proposed closures have drawn sharp criticism from the Chicago Teachers Union, parents and lawmakers.

They say the district is disproportionately targeting schools in minority neighborhoods. They also say the closures will endanger students who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school.

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