Oct 12, 2009
A scandal is brewing in Chicago: apparently aldermen used their influence to get friends and families into the city’s nine selective enrollment schools. Okay, this is disgusting, but it’s not surprising – this is the city Mayor Daley and Rod Blagojevich call home.
The real problem is how few places there are in these schools. Chicago’s top selective enrollment schools are the best in Illinois. And they are free to Chicago residents – but only a very tiny number of residents get in: At two of the schools, fewer than 3% of applicants get in.
What makes these schools so desirable? For one, they have enough teachers for their students. Class sizes at these schools are around 25 to 28 students per class, while at neighborhood high schools 30 or more students are in most classrooms.
Schools like Northside, Jones College Prep, and Lindblom Math and Science Academy have undergone renovations costing tens of millions of dollars in the past decade. Meanwhile, at neighborhood schools like Farragut Career Academy, students have to deal with leaky roofs and atrocious bathroom plumbing.
Teachers at selective enrollment schools get new computers every few years, up-to-date textbooks, and can make as many copies as they need. Teachers at Bowen, a neighborhood high school on the South Side, are limited to 1,000 copies a semester. For a teacher with 135 students, that’s eight copies each – or one page every two weeks.
Lindblom has after school robotics and biotechnology classes for students. At Farragut, the school won’t even pay for the buses to take sports teams to their matches.
With all these advantages, the teachers tend to stay at these schools – and leave the neighborhood schools. So the students learn more, and have a better chance at going to college.
Every school should have what these schools have – all our children deserve a decent education. But that would require diverting money from tax breaks for profit-making corporations into the schools.