Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Corruption in Chicago Schools?

It certainly shouldn't surprise any Chicagoan that the admissions process for our city's selective admission schools might be tainted.

For one thing, Marj Halperin, a long-time resident, former journalist (and much more), and parent of two who attended schools in the CPS system, broke this story about, oh...20 years ago? Her investigative report, published in Chicago Magazine (download scan here), detailed the ruses—from creating fake older siblings so the actual children could qualify for the sibling lottery and "principal choice" categories, to giving sizable donations to their school of choice—of many of her (and my) acquaintances, friends and neighbors. Some of Chicago's so-called "best" magnet schools were implicated—Hawthorne comes to mind—and the parents involved were everyday folks, a slice of the city, albeit well-resourced.

For another, this is Chicago, in Illinois, where our politicians from the highest levels on down, set the tone and model the behavior. Where there's a trough, they are grubbing. Is it surprising when we follow their lead? And isn't the toxic combination of access and entitlement ("I know how to get want I want, therefore I deserve to!"), salted with a dash of desperation ("Where will my children go to school?"), likely to foster sorry behavior?

If we care about each other we will push to make the circumstances—too few wonderful schools for all our children—and the kind of debates I hope these parents had with themselves before they made the choice to step over others and around the democratic process of the lottery system, obsolete.

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