Who gets in? Feds probe Chicago schools

Chicago’s top public schools are supposed to admit students on the basis of a lottery (magnet schools) or aptitude (“gifted” and selective-enrollment schools).  However, some parents charge that money money and connections open the schoolhouse doors to less-qualified students. Now federal investigators are looking into enrollment practices in the district, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Competition to get into the city’s premier selective enrollment schools is fierce. Every year thousands of students apply for hundreds of openings at the schools considered the crown jewels of the city’s public school system.

. . . The district has long allowed magnet school principals to handpick up to 5 percent of their students. Last year, they extended that right to principals at the nine selective enrollment high schools, even though some principals acknowledged they were already doing it. The principals can consider only extenuating circumstances such as a special talent or family crisis, not the applicants’ political ties.

But whispers have long swirled that some students get spots in these top-flight schools not by chance or merit, but by whom their parents know or how much money they make.

Responding to the Tribs’ Clout Goes to College series, federal prosecutors also are seeking evidence that former Illinois “Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his power brokers” demanded and received special treatment for well-connected applicants to the University of Illinois and other state universities.