Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently proposed a plan for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that would add to the requirements to receive a diploma. Titled Learn.Plan. Succeed.- A Degree for Life, the proposal would require CPS students to have plans beyond graduation.
Although the proposal comes from the best intentions, CPS is in no state to receive any type of requirement that deters future graduates from receiving their diploma.
Emanuel’s proposal would require CPS high school seniors to get accepted into a college or university, or enroll in the military or a trade program to receive his or her diploma. Although the proposal focuses on more education requirements, the plan also makes it optional for students to show proof of a job offer or already being employed.
The proposal’s purpose, according to Emanuel, is to create a system that would prevent graduation from being the final achievement. Instead, approving this proposal would allow students to think about “what’s next.”
However, the plan caused uproar the day it was revealed. Families involved with CPS reacted negatively; many responded with anger, mentioning how CPS is, in no way, ready for such a drastic change. Being the first proposal of its kind in the United States, it is questionable why other states, have not created a similar structure.
With the proposal gaining attention, it is important to consider the current state of CPS. If all is accounted for, CPS should never accept a proposal like this until resources are given beforehand.
“It is a great idea if you put resources in your schools,” secondary education professor, Harold London, said. “If you are not putting resources into your schools, you are taking a victim and victimizing them even more.”
Rather, the focus should be on the current state of CPS. This newfound proposal is not the attention CPS needs.
Since 2015, graduation rates have increased by 69.9 percent in 2016 from 56.9 percent in 2011, according to the Chicago Tribune. In 2017, CPS amassed a total of $6.7 billion in debt, while they continually threaten to close CPS three weeks early due to financial strains. As the ceiling for debt in Chicago has increased, the threat to future proposals has followed right behind.
Students enrolled in CPS deserve attention from politicians and faculty. Yet, the city’s complicated history between politicians and public education has not shown any sign of improvement.
“Emanuel cannot make this a requirement for the CPS. There is nothing in place to help those find a job or get enrolled into the military,” London said. “There are no counselors to assist students in enrolling into a university or college. Lastly, you have kids who are already in jeopardy.”
CPS has never approached a plan that would raise graduation requirements. However, in Chicago, a separate network of schools, Noble Charter Schools, has embraced “The Noble Way.” A similar graduation plan to the one Rahm established. According to Noble Network, in 2012,they produced a graduating class with 100 percent college acceptance and 82 percent enrollment in a four year school.
“First off, my first concern is: what is Emanuel’s motivation for this mandate? With a long history of conflict with CPS, suspicions are and should be high for why he wants to add this requirement,” Patrick Hansen-Schmitt, a former teacher for the Noble Network, said. “Is he really doing this for the betterment of children, or are his motives political? Children should never be the pawn of political action.”
Instead of pushing for requirements, Emanuel’s adminstration and CPS should come together to establish resources for post graduation life and reach out to the community members involved with CPS to hear their needs. The also need to offer financial solutions to CPS’ rising debt.
If the proposal were created as a program and not a requirement, Chicago would flourish in terms of graduation and success after school. It is important for students to think about what is next in their lives instead of being left on their own. However, the program should never make this idea mandatory, especially in a depressing state of debt that CPS has been buried under for the past decade.
Lisa Boho, a DePaul alumna and former teacher for CPS, offered a perspective from the inside of what can be done.
“I think it has good intentions. I would change it from a policy requirement to a program with funding,” Boho said. “We need to pay counselors for this to be put into action. This policy might add to the debt if you think about it. We should do this, or we should do that (…) as a former CPS teacher, let me tell you, we cannot do any of those things without funding. That’s all there is to it.”
CPS needs support in order to allow students with potential to be successful. Only then would proposals like these be welcomed throughout the city of Chicago.