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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Black parents want choices, but Chicago plans to limit options

Black parents are the most likely to choose charter, selective enrollment or magnet schools in Chicago, reports Sarah Karp for WBEZ. She talks to two mothers who are "in the middle of an intensifying debate about school choice" in the city.

Tracee Blackburn found her daughter a spot in one of the city's top kindergartens. Ta'jee Presswood, not realizing she had a choice, enrolled her daughter in the low-performing neighborhood school.

Tracee Blackburn picks up her daughter, a second grader, at her Chicago school. Photo: Marc Monaghan for WBEZ

Chicago's school board and mayor charge that the choice system is undercutting neighborhood schools and making inequality worse, writes Karp. But many see choice as the only escape from low-performing schools.

That's especially true for middle-class and upper-middle-class black families, who are more likely to live in low-income neighborhoods than white and Asian families of the same economic status, she writes.

Blackburn’s daughter aced a test to get into Bronzeville Classical School, a selective enrollment elementary run by the district. Now in second grade, she's doing well.

Presswood's daughter, now in fifth grade, gets straight As, but the mother "wonders if she is being challenged," Karp writes. "Students at the school score in the bottom 5% in the state on standardized tests."

In interaction with school staff, she sees “a level of complacency, unprofessionalism and level of rudeness and callousness, looking at the kids as subhuman as if their feelings don’t matter,” she said. She won a seat on the Local School Council, which replaced the principal, and has hope the school will improve.

But she still dreams of sending her daughter to a better school.

Charter-school advocates asked Mayor Brandon Johnson, a former teachers' union staffer, to "keep school choice alive," after his hand-picked school board signaled a shift to neighborhood schools, reports Michael Gerstein for Chalkbeat.

"Most parents aren't willing to gamble with their children," writes Alden Loury, who is black, in a Chicago Sun-Times commentary. "If they can’t find or afford suitable options, they’ll simply opt out" of district schools. He enrolled his daughter in a charter school. Later, she won a place in a selective-enrollment high school.

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1 Comment

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Jan 23

School mayors should accommodate such demanding families, or watch them leave the city, leaving behind only the least academically ambitious families, whose children too often make unappealing classmates for one's own.

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