North Side location criticized for new Obama College Prep

Some are criticizing a plan to build a new selective enrollment school named after President Obama on Chicago's North Side.
April 25, 2014 6:01:29 PM PDT
Some are criticizing a plan to build a new selective enrollment school named after President Obama on Chicago's North Side. Some South Side residents want to know why the new school won't be built in their community.

Before the mayor helped plant a tree at a Southwest Side grade school, he talked about good things happening at Chicago Public Schools.

"Eighty-two percent of our kids are on track to graduate from high school. That is a significant step forward," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

But Emanuel said nothing about the announcement Thursday that the Barack Obama College Prep High School will be located on the North Side. Southwest Side residents have complained years that there is no selective enrollment high school near their neighborhoods.

"Everyone wants those schools close to them and I think you'll be hearing more about selective enrollment on the Southwest Side very soon," said Ald. Mike Zalewski, 23rd Ward.

The $60 million Obama College Prep will be CPS' 11th such high school attended by qualified students from anywhere in the city. The proposed campus is in a gentrifying neighborhood fewer than ten blocks from Walter Payton College Prep.

"The location is interesting, the choice, the rationale behind placing it there," said Amara Enyia, candidate for mayor.

Amara Enyia is a lawyer, former Daley administration aide and candidate for mayor. She questioned why Emanuel would name a North Side school after Barack Obama.

"To me, if we're talking about location then why don't we look at locations where he worked, which would be primarily on the South Side," said Enyia.

The mayor said Thursday that the planned site had access to transportation and tax increment financing funds available.

"Four separate bus lines, two separate rail lines, open line with TIF dollars," said Emanuel on Thursday.

There are various other areas in the city that do have dollars in their TIFs that could have been sites where this school could be located," said Enyia.

The mayor's office is sounding as though the North Side location for Obama College Prep is a done deal. But as this project gets underway, expect Emanuel's political opponents to make it an issue in the 2015 city election campaign.


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