The End of De-Seg as We Know It?

January 14, 2009 at 11:44 pm 1 comment

This month, there will be a hearing (a real hearing, in a Federal courtroom!) to consider the Consent Decree, which is the ruling from back in the 80’s that required the CPS Magnet and Gifted/Classical schools to include a certain level of minority students.

My understanding is that these school can take a maximum of about 35% white students and the rest are minority students (not balanced within that group by any race, background, etc.)  If you’re a white parent on the northside who is entering the lottery, that might sounds like tough odds.  And it is.  But you might also be surprised to know that only around 10% of CPS students are white.  So in reality, the 35% of slots is very generous.  And by the way, if you’re curious, nobody every checks what a child’s “true” background/heritage/etc is.  You are supposed to indicate how the child identifies, but of course that is a muddy area and it certainly is tempting to go into the 65% pool if you can.   Each Magnet/Gifted/Classical school actually has 2 lotteries, one for the whities and one for the minorities (actually the majorities.)

So somebody, somewhere decided recently that it might be time to create a level playing field in the city and put an end to the race requirement.  And I can’t help but wonder who it was that felt that minority kids in this city are getting as much out of their education as white kids are.   Test scores among African American students are much lower than Caucasion kids (although Asian kids are kicking everyone’s asses.)  Schools in some of the lower-income neighborhoods are in a state of squalor from what I understand, and there isn’t a fundraising or tax base from which to get the extras that other schools are putting into place.  The rate of drop-outs among minority students is much worse as well.

Also, as a matter of principal, Chicago is hideously segregated by race – as was reported recently in the Tribune.  Yet some of the bright spots in the city are the schools that balance on race.  I swear when I toured Hawthorne and Stone each class had a perfect balance of white/black/hispanic/asian/other kids.  It’s like exactly what I envisioned when I pictured an urban school.  (Yes, of course I was counting white boys to see what our odds were.)

So really, I cannot for the life of me fathom how someone could say “desegretion – yeah, it worked! Done!”  I don’t get it.  I HAVE heard that if the ruling is overturned, some schools (or all?) would still honor the decree.  But then again, the lottery is handled by CPS, not the schools so I don’t know how they could work around it.

The hearing is January 22nd.  Members of the public were invited to speak if they submitted their comments last month.  Should be interesting to see what happens.

Entry filed under: Applying to schools, CPS. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Jill  |  February 20, 2009 at 11:57 am

    The minimally fleshed out CPS plan presumes they would not qualify *each* student by income (or, just what CPS needs: another layer of bureaucracy). Instead, they would determine a family’s income level by census block. But woe be the low-income family who lives or struggles to live in a gentrifying neighborhood.

    And, several studies have indicated that while highly correlated, socioeconomic status is not a proxy for race, and will not alone lead to the creation or maintenance of racially integrated schools. For ex:

    For many reasons, many low income families don’t want to put their children on buses to affluent north side schools. Families whose children are in schools that do not meet AYP already have the right to move their children to high performing schools. CPS already has a Minority-to-Majority transfer program. But these options are really only easy to navigate if you are an informed and empowered consumer. Many low income families lack the resources to navigate the system and send their children to schools so far from their homes.

    Why do you think it was so hard for Coonley to achieve racial diversity in their first two gifted classes that were set up last year? The surrounding neighborhoods are largely white and middle income. It’s wonderful that CPS is setting up choice and new programs, but there is clearly inequity as far as who gets served citywide.

    It’s presumed to be a sure thing that Judge Kocoras will overturn the consent decree since in a twist of irony, the Supreme Court recently issued a conservative ruling that assignments to school based on race alone is unconstitutional.

    It’s my pollyannna hope that CPS (read as: the Mayor) will engage the larger community– parents, educators, civic leaders and academia– for facilitative input into a plan for diversity that takes into account a mix of the right variables– i.e., poverty, race, language diversity, special needs, level of education of the parents, etc. As demographics and school performance changes, this formula would need to change too.

What do you think?

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