New admission policy for magnet schools

December 16, 2009 (CHICAGO) The school board discussed the criteria on Wednesday during a regular meeting and came up with a plan that will be re-evaluated in one-year for a long term fix.

For almost 30 years, admissions into Chicago Public Schools' magnet and selective enrollment high schools were based on race. That policy came from a court decree that forced the school district to integrate schools. However, a Supreme Court ruling ended race-based admissions, so CPS came up with a new plan.

"What we are committed to do is building a system that maintains or improves the current level of integration that exists in all our schools in the Chicago public school system. This is a plan that is legally defensible," said Ron Huberman, Chicago Public Schools CEO.

The one-year plan gives preference to siblings of students already enrolled. Parents at LaSalle Language Academy think it is a great idea.

"I do have a sibling, if there is a better chance of him getting in, I would be happy," said Debra Sudworth.

"If he had a sibling I would definitely want them to go to the same school for sure," said Charlene Thomas, parent.

The plan would then give the remaining 40-percent of the magnet school seats to those who live in the neighborhood. The rest of the spots would be split based on socio-economic factors. Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman said focusing on socioeconomic criteria such as income level and a single parent household will help achieve racial diversity.

"by using socio economic status and by reserving seat by different socio-economic groups into our schools, what we are trying to do is prevent these schools for being only accessible to wealthy families in the neighborhood," said Huberman.

Huberman said he has no idea how the numbers will shake out until the plan is put into place. Several minority parents and community activists urged the board to vote the plan down. Many fear it will prevent minority students from attending the districts best schools.

"You are not giving our children choices. You are giving them sentences," said Phil Jackson, Black Star Project.

Community activists and concerned parents said they elt they were left out of the process because the school district did hold community meetings.

Because of legal reasons, Chicago public schools officials said they were forced to come up with a plan quickly for the next school year.

It is only a one year policy. The goal is to re- evaluate and come up with a long term policy next year.

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