Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Did CPS drive students away from school? What can keep them in class?

When the Chicago Public Schools closed several of its inner-city facilities as part of a measure to control costs, much was made of the complaints from some parents that they didn’t want their children to attend the schools that had been picked for them as alternatives.

In many cases, it seems that the walk to the new school would cause kids to have to enter, or pass through, neighborhoods that were not deemed safe.

IN SOME CASES, street gang alliances were not being taken into account, and parents feared their children might get caught up in the middle of that layer of nonsense that afflicts our city’s neighborhoods.

So it was with some interest that I read the Chicago Tribune report published Tuesday that said almost half of the kids who had their old school closed were not transferring to the schools that CPS officials intended for them to go to.

Which means the roughly $233 million in renovations and other improvements that were meant to help the “new” schools accommodate the extra student load may not have been spent in the most practical of manners.

The Tribune has reporters who found parents who decided that rather than have their kids go to school at the place the Chicago Public Schools thought was practical, they were making arrangements to send their kids elsewhere.

EVEN THOUGH IN many cases, it means an even longer commute and more of a hassle for the parents – all because they REALLY, REALLY don’t want their kids in school environments where they fear the urban violence factor will overcome any learning benefits their kids might get.

The Tribune found the Metcalfe Elementary School near the Pullman neighborhood that has 77 new students due to the school closings of earlier this year – even though that school wasn’t supposed to get newcomers, has limited access that creates problems for students with disabilities, and a lack of funds to fix the problem.

All in all, it sounds like a mess – school closings that weren’t thought out thoroughly enough.

Now I’m not about to start ranting (again) about the flaws in the school closings. To briefly summarize my past stance, it was that while I realize the fact that many of the closed schools were aging facilities that needed replacement, the whole issue put many parents in a position where they were forced to fight to keep flawed schools open!

BECAUSE SCHOOL OFFICIALS didn’t quite think the issue through to the end.

It seems that the parental concerns about the places where Chicago Public Schools officials wanted to shift students are more intense than the potential for financial savings that were incurred by the closings.

I’m wondering when the novelty of a longer school commute wears off and it becomes just a hassle, how many kids are going to wind up finding “excuses” to miss more and more school.

A mind may be a terrible thing to waste – or so goes the old United Negro College Fund tag-line. But some people may be put in positions where they will feel it is just beyond their means to fulfill a quality education.

WHICH IS A terrible way to view the situation. But it is something that some people are likely to do.

In fact, I’m wondering if some students wind up being lost along the way. They’ll just decide that transferring anywhere is a hassle.

I’d like to think this is a situation that can be resolved by some serious thought and a willingness of public officials to view the issue more from the perspective of what is good for the children and less of what benefits the interests of the public officials.

Because the cost of continuing to mismanage this situation is way too high on our society for us to be able to afford it in future years!


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