The following piece is from WBEZ. It was written by Natalie Moore.
By: Natalie Moore
Whites represent only 9 percent of the district’s student body, making school segregation worse.
Legal segregation may be over in Chicago, but racial isolation is well documented in Chicago Public Schools.
CPS can no longer use race as an admittance factor and more and more students are eschewing their neighborhood schools for other options. Education watchers argue there’s a two-tier system in the district, and that attracting middle-class families is a Sisyphean task.
Our segregated school system compelled the following Curious City question from a woman who wanted to remain anonymous:
What percentage of white Chicago school age children attend public school?
Well, the short answer is 51 percent… according to the Census.
So roughly half of all white children who could go to CPS do, while the other half gets their education somewhere else. By comparison, the number of African-American school-age children who attend CPS is higher than 80 percent.
Part of this can be explained by a huge gap in the total number of eligible students based on race. More on that later, but first, let’s take a closer look at how white parents decide where to send their kids to school.
Where should our kids go to school?
Of course, choosing where to enroll your child in school is an intense and private family decision. Some parents want their children to get a religious education, others want better resources, and sometimes where to go to school is simply a matter of logistics.
Alice DuBose lives in Andersonville and says she never had a problem with the neighborhood public school. But she did have a problem with its location relative to her job.
When her children were in elementary school, DuBose worked at the University of Chicago. She enrolled her three children in the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools on campus.
“I could drop the kids off in the morning and go on to work and it was really great when I was working here because then I could just go over and see my daughters, participate in classroom activities to it was absolutely fantastic in that way,” DuBose said. “It was more convenient. If we had gone to a neighborhood school, I could’ve never participated in classroom activities.”
It also didn’t hurt that Laboratory is a well-regarded private school with lots of resources. Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s children go there.
“Lab’s terrific,” DuBose continued. “Great teaching, smaller classrooms. All the things that we all want for our children.”
DuBose’s daughters attended there until 8th grade and then went on to attend Whitney Young – a CPS selective enrollment school. Now DuBose hopes her son follows in their footsteps.
The reality is many middle-class parents, including those not initially in CPS, jockey to get their children in selective public high schools like Whitney Young.
‘Support Neighborhood Public Schools’
Not far from Lab in Hyde Park, is a white family who was committed to CPS from the very beginning.
oy Clendenning and Michael Scott live in Hyde Park. They didn’t choose the neighborhood because of the schools. Scott grew up there and has strong family ties and Clendenning loves the quirky intellectualism of the area. The couple say they believe in public education and always knew their children would attend CPS. A sign in their window says ‘Support Neighborhood Public Schools.’
All four of their children attended Ray Elementary through sixth grade. The oldest went to Kenwood Academy’s 7th and 8th grade academic center and stayed for high school. He’s now a freshman at Occidental College. The second oldest is a sophomore at Whitney Young and started in its academic center. Their twins are currently in 8th grade at Kenwood.
Ray is a neighborhood school that also accepts students outside its attendance boundary through a lottery. 20 percent of its students are white and 55 percent black. Kenwood is the neighborhood high school and is 86 percent black. Their son was one of only a couple of white students in his graduating class.
“Kenwood was a very good place for Sam and we never thought ‘this was too black,’” Scott said.
Clendenning says they’re concerned about how many schools and neighborhoods are segregated.
“And we definitely think it’s a problem that people in our neighborhood don’t give the public schools a serious try,” she added.
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