This is not encouraging

Let’s think about what a best-case scenario would be re: active desegregation efforts within CPS. Probably we’d be talking about two schools very close to each other, since busing crosstown – into neighborhoods that parents from both sending and receiving schools are unfamiliar with – is probably a no-go. Probably we’d be talking about schools in relatively wealthy, mostly white areas, to minimize the intimidation factor for the middle-class parents whose tentative approval would be needed for local officials to feel comfortable pursuing desegregation. Probably we’d be talking about an area where there had been a recent history of school gentrification, so local parents understood the successful track record of low-performing, high-poverty schools receiving a critical mass of middle-class students and seeing their test scores skyrocket. Those are the conditions in which I’d be most optimistic about seeing some integration efforts.

Oh well.

Parents from Lincoln Elementary reacted at Wednesday’s board meeting to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to build an $18 million addition to the school, with some expressing elation while others pointed out a less expensive solution: redrawing attendance boundaries so some Lincoln students would be sent to other nearby schools, Alcott or Mayer.

But nothing was said about Manierre, a school just 1.3 miles away and more underutilized than any of the other neighborhood schools. In fact, as the district planned the closings, officials considered using Manierre–or at least its building, emptied of its students–to solve overcrowding in Lincoln Park.

Manierre, a predominantly black school, was initially placed on the list of schools to be shut down… (“Race ‘elephant in the room’ with Lincoln overcrowding,” Catalyst)

So instead of sending a chunk of middle-class (to wealthy) kids to another school in the same neighborhood whose test scores would almost certainly approach the levels of other gentrified elementaries as soon as it became equally gentrified – a school that has so much extra room it was considered for closure – CPS has decided that it has $18 million to spend on expanding Lincoln Elementary. Incidentally, the amount the district says it’s saving per year thanks to those 50 schools it did close is about $40 million. So thanks, South Side kids – we bought a new school for the richest neighborhood in the city by getting rid of about 25 of your schools.

By far the best line of that Catalyst piece:

Asked in a deposition for the lawsuit why CPS officials didn’t consider redrawing attendance boundaries so some students in overcrowded schools would be sent to Manierre, Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley said “a reason why not is because it is highly disruptive to relocate people from their existing school to another school.”

I can’t even.


4 thoughts on “This is not encouraging

  1. Think your blog is pretty brilliant, going through all your prior posts. I’m concerned this individual post isn’t being precisely fair. According to google maps, distance from Lincoln: 0.4 miles to Alcott, 0.8 miles to Mayer. There’s also the matter of North Avenue being a 4-lane highway the kids would have to cross. I’m deeply uninformed on local school politics, but it seems to me that criticism of the $18m is very reasonable, criticism of not-sending-kids-to-Manierre is very unreasonable.

    1. Thanks! I would have to look at the attendance boundaries to see if those numbers really mattered – I suspect there are a number of students coming to Lincoln from far enough away in the direction of Manierre that you could carve off a chunk for decrowding, but I could be wrong. Also – how many places in the city do elementary kids have to cross a four-lane road to get to school? I would guess quite a few.

      Of course, I don’t want to be obtuse: it’s obviously in the interest of these parents, at least in a narrow sense, to support expansion of Lincoln instead of transfer to Manierre. My point isn’t that they should feel a particular way, but that from my point of view, the city’s interests lie a) in not spending more money than they have to, given the circumstances, and b) in increasing the number of economically and racially integrated schools, because evidence suggests those are the ones that are actually going to create the most added value for their students. Instead, the city is acting as if their interests are the same as the Lincoln parents’, which requires that they be opposed to the interests of the Manierre parents, and by extension, the interests of the many, many parents of children at economically and racially segregated schools across the city. I think that’s silly. Worse than silly, actually.

      That said, I don’t want to double down too hard on this, because the fact is I’m just not that aware of all the details of this arrangement. It’s possible there are extenuating circumstances. But the city’s case – especially that egregious “it’s disruptive to send kids to a new school” line – doesn’t sound very good.

      1. Appreciate your thoughtful response. I agree that “disruptive” line was insane, and the $18M doesn’t seem the wisest use of the money. I just want “Social-Justice vs. Lincoln-parents” as little as I want “City vs. Manierre-parents”, so felt it necessary to point out that a Manierre plan seemed a bit much to ask. Again, I’m no expert, but Alcott/Mayer seemed the reasonable way to go.

        I’m sure many elementary kids have to cross 4-ln roads, but that’s a number I’d love to decrease.

  2. I’m also cruising through your blog. Really top-notch thinking. Please keep it coming!
    I remember when this decision went over. My first thought was: Holy shit, property values! As much as Lincoln parents would die before becoming Manierre parents, the property owners in the attendance area (a much larger group) would openly revolt. You just can’t do that to the rich. It’s one of those moments when the mask falls and the true nature of things becomes embarrassingly obvious. After a moment of shocked silence, we resume the pretenses.
    I’m interested in the notion of redrawing attendance areas as a way of spreading the fruits of gentrification to schools that serve the poor.
    Two questions:
    What do you suppose is the threshold mix of low-income to non- beyond which a school is acceptable/attractive to the middle class?
    How mutable should attendance area boundaries be? Say what you like about the yuppie property value obsession (okay, it was me who brought it up, not you), buying a home is a big bet for MC people and none wants uncertainty in such an important factor as school.

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