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The [Wednesday] Papers

For completists, there was no column on Tuesday.

"Chicago Public Schools is planning to take on more than 100 construction projects in the next year. On that lengthy list is a curious project: 'New Southside High School Construction,'" Becky Vevea reports for WBEZ.

"The cost? $75 million. The location? To be determined. But several sources familiar with the district's capital planning confirmed to WBEZ that officials want the school in Englewood and are considering consolidating several existing neighborhood high schools due to low enrollment."

So building a new high school in Englewood is really a way to close high schools in Englewood.

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"Four high schools in Englewood have among the smallest freshmen classes in the city. At TEAM Englewood, 15 freshmen were enrolled when CPS took it's official count in October. At Robeson and Harper, there were 23 and 36, respectively. At Hope College Prep, the school formerly led by Board of Education member Mahalia Hines, just 28 freshman showed up.

"Collectively, these four public high schools have just 614 students. It's a stark drop from 2010, when more than 2,500 students attended these schools."

"These schools are hanging by a thread," said Sarah Rothschild Hainds, a researcher with the Chicago Teachers Union and a member of the state task force that oversees the district's facility planning process. "They barely can offer programming. They have such tiny budgets. They have such tiny enrollment."

This is true. To the Beachwood vault, Sept. 8, 2015:

"More than 350,000 Chicago Public Schools students prepared to return to class Tuesday for the start of a new school year that already is riddled with fiscal instability," the Sun-Times reports.

And at Kelvyn Park High School, which is slated to lose an additional $2.2 million from its budget, students and teachers wondered how they're supposed to succeed with ever-shrinking resources.

"We have no college counselor," Sherilyn Flores, a 17-year-old senior, said outside the Hermosa neighborhood high school. "I'm more worried about college this year than any other senior would be."

The cuts have been going on since her freshman year in 2012, she said, adding: "High school doesn't feel like high school anymore."

That's what kids at Robeson High School in Englewood told me two years ago: It just didn't feel like high school. It felt like something less. Much, much less. And that was because budget cuts - and falling enrollment - had essentially eviscerated the school.

Kelvyn Park lost 19 staff positions, including the school's clinical social worker who led a weekly support group for girls who survived sexual assault and abuse, and students, and teachers who coached sports teams and sponsored the National Honor Society, and the lone college counselor who also started a legal clinic to help the school's immigrant families.

"And yet, they are still expected to just get by," Jennifer Velasquez, a Local School Council member and a 2012 graduate of the school, said of Kelvyn Park students. "We know they are brilliant, but why does our mayor and the Board of Education make it almost impossible for low income black and brown students to get the support we deserve?"

Indeed. Instead, some of the city schools are sent into a death spiral.

In the case of, say, Robeson, that death spiral has come in the form of "choice."

"After spending more than a decade expanding the number of public school choices in the city while the city's student population was declining, Chicago now has more than two dozen high schools with fewer than 100 freshmen," Vevea reports. "WBEZ first reported on withering enrollment in neighborhood high schools in 2013 and again in 2015."

That's right - the school district has been expanding even amidst its recent mass closing. This is a point Raise Your Hand has tried to make over and over.

(Let's be clear: "public school choices" means an expansion in quasi-public charters at the expense of neighborhood schools; Rahm has aggressively instituted a vision of citywide schools all competing against each other, the way elite colleges compete nationwide, instead of the traditional system - that works so well in the suburbs - of strong neighborhood schools that are integrated into the fabric of community life.)

How can schools with limited resources to begin with "compete" with other nearby schools?

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"The shiny new school down the street that doesn't have the reputation of gangs? That doesn't have the reputation of any neglect? That's going to have all kinds of bells and whistles. I mean, who would say no to that as a parent?" said Sarah Rothschild Hainds, a researcher with the Chicago Teachers Union and a member of the state task force that oversees the district's facility planning process, told Vevea "A brand new school next to the brand new Whole Foods. That sounds very enticing."

To the Beachwood vault again!

"'I want you all to give yourselves a hand for making this possible, for never giving in and never giving up to the cynics who said it never was possible, that it couldn't happen in Englewood,' Emanuel said from a stage in the grocery store's parking lot."

I'm not sure anyone said it wasn't possible, but when the plans were first announced, they were scrutinized as they should be: Was this really going to create jobs for neighborhood folk? Would this be the game-changer it was advertised as by Rahm and city officials? Would local residents be able to afford the store nicknamed Whole Paycheck? There was nothing cynical about those questions, and they still ultimately remain. I've been persuaded that this development is good for Englewood, but I hate the subsidy game and I hate the politics of Rahm declaring victory and moving on instead of investing deeply in neighborhoods like this that need it. The Lucas Museum, for example, might have looked good around 63rd and Halsted. And that $10 million taxpayer subsidy? Robeson High School sure could have used it. So who's the cynic, Rahm?

Back to Vevea:

"There once was an Englewood High School, but the district decided to close it in 2005 for poor performance. The last class graduated in 2008, and now the building is shared between TEAM Englewood and a public charter school called Urban Prep Academy."

From DNAinfo Chicago:

"[Aysha Butler, president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood] said the community is well aware that enrollment is extremely low in the neighborhood schools, partially blaming it on selective enrollment schools and the influx of charter schools in the area."

True, though falling population in Englewood has increasingly become a factor too; perhaps people are leaving because the city has invested in charter schools but not the neighborhood as a whole.

"When Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th) was alderman in the 15th Ward, her area included Harper High School. She said her biggest concern is what kind of school a new building will be because charter schools have taken most of the top students.

"They're recruiting at their homes and they're taking Tier 1 students, the cream of the crop, and leaving students with academic problems and emotional problems," Foulkes said.

Foulkes also spoke to the Sun-Times:

Foulkes said she is "not surprised they're talking about closing Harper, where they started the school year with "200-plus" students only to have enrollment drop to "100 and something."

But she argued that enrollment doesn't tell the whole story.

"When I was the alderman in the 15th, the concern of staffing at Harper was that children were being recruited by charter schools. They'd go to their houses and say, `You don't want your child going to the community school because they fight. They have bad kids there,'" Foulkes said.

"But they only target [top] students. So that leaves them with the students that are troubled, have issues and low test scores," she said. "And when those charters take them, the first time they have a problem, they kick 'em out and send 'em back."

Meanwhile, Ald. Ray Lopez was a bit confused about the concept at hand:

"A new high school would send a message that we're continuing to invest in our neighborhoods, just as we did in the Back of the Yards, when they introduced the new IB-Back of the Yards high school," said Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).

"Obviously, we don't want to talk about closing schools. But we have to be prepared for the population trends as they have been," he said. "And in my part of Greater Englewood, we are seeing new families come into the community, new homeowners buying into the area, as well as working with our longstanding homeowners. They want to make sure that our communities are vibrant and family friendly. Having a new high school in the area would definitely send that message."

Lopez was asked whether he would be willing to accept the closing of a handful of half-empty high schools if that's the price that must be paid to get a brand new high school.

"My ward has two high schools in Englewood. We have Lindblom and we have Harper. I don't want to see Harper closed, even though populations are trending downward. We have to look at ways to make that school viable as well. If that means doing co-locations where we can turn it into a K-through-12 facility, I'd be open for that. But it's too soon to say we have to close it," Lopez said.

"I can't speak for all of Englewood. But at least in my area Lindblom is very much filled," he said. "They're actually looking at expanding Lindblom. And I think we need to look at all of the options for Harper as well."

So, no, Ray, the administration isn't really looking at simply adding a snazzy new high school to the existing complement; the rest would have to go.

*

Back to the point made by Foulkes, Raise Your Hand and others, from DNAinfo:

"Between 2008 and 2015, there was a 28 percent decline in high school-age residents living in the attendance boundaries of Englewood schools, data provided at the meeting showed.

"Of those students remaining in the community, many are choosing to go to schools outside the neighborhood, the data shows.

"Back in 2008, for example, Robeson High School enrolled 74 percent of high school-age students who lived in its residential boundaries. But by 2015, only 13 percent of students who could go to Robeson actually did, the data showed. Of the 2,602 high school-age students living in the Robeson boundary, only 203 actually go to the school, the data shows."

Robeson has essentially been picked clean. Englewood has been left behind.

*

WBEZ:

"It's not clear if the district is reaching out to anyone in Englewood or other communities. Calls to several schools were unanswered or referred to the district's communications office."

*

Back to the Sun-Times:

"Emanuel's plans to build a new selective enrollment school he wanted to name for President Barack Obama were recently canceled as part of the deal to give CPS the $87.5 million in tax-increment financing money needed in October to stave off another teachers strike.

"It was not known Tuesday whether construction of the new South Side high school in Englewood might also pave the way for the mayor to resurrect that project or make it politically palatable for him to build a new high school on the Near North Side, as he originally planned."

Perhaps, but I'd say it's more likely a new Englewood school would be named after Obama to assist with the sell.

*

Finally:

"Englewood's other alderman, the recently indicted Willie Cochran (20th), could not be reached for comment."

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It's not that a new high school for Englewood is necessarily a bad idea, it's that CPS seems to be spinning its wheels while the mayor's every move is driven by political cynicism and an ultimately unworkable vision of school "choice" that weakens communities instead of strengthens them.

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The Chicago Race Riots Of 1919
Featuring Carl Sandburg and Walter Lippmann.

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NOLA's Secret Schools
One has to give a side-eye to a state agency that is widely cited for successfully reforming schools while at the same time is being sued for keeping information about that success private.

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Trump's War Authority
Sixty ambiguous words invoked at least 18 times by former President George W. Bush and at least 19 times by President Barack Obama.

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From the Wisconsin desk . . .

Wisconsin Cheese: Full Speed Ahead!
From McDonald's to Mexico.

The Midwest Aquaculture Capital
The Wisconsin Idea on the Wisconsin Fish Fry.

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Chicago Bookstore A Satanic Stronghold
Evil on Milwaukee Avenue.

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The Weekend In Chicago Rock
Featuring: Twin Peaks, Order Of Light, Blood Licker, Emancipator, Dru Hill, The Main Squeeze, Vat of Chocolate, Shiny Penny, Tim Reynolds, Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language, The Ides of March, TCB, HMTS, Morales Phallus, and Ellie Goulding.

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BeachBook
A sampling.

Trump's National Security Advisor Met With Leader Of Party Founded By Nazis.

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NSA Watchdog Who Insisted Edward Snowden Should Have Come To Him Removed For Whistleblower Retaliation.

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The Regulatory Capture Of The Press.

Our own revolving door with the people we cover.

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Downers Grove Man May Be Most Traveled In The World, According To The Tribune.

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Why KFC Is A Christmas Tradition In Japan.

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tronc Line: It was the best of tronc, it was the worst of tronc.



Permalink

Posted on December 21, 2016


MUSIC - The Weekend In Chicago Rock.
TV - Can Anyone Stop Sinclair?
POLITICS - Grade Inflation For The Rich.
SPORTS - Your Turn: Kaepernick's Protest.

BOOKS - Don't Crack Down On Hate Sites.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Pork Sausage Patties Recalled.


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