Want to make your community better? Consider your neighborhood school
Written by: Kandie Alter
Photo credit: Lucelia Ribeiro/Flickr
There is a lot of agreement on the NPN forum that Betsy DeVos is a worrisome choice to head up the U.S. Department of Education. No doubt she would continue her crusade to widely promote charters and tax-payer–funded vouchers for private and religious schools. But arguably the future of Chicago Public Schools will have more to do with how we act locally than what DeVos or some equally anti-public education secretary does.
This January '16 Trib article outlines the impact school choice has had on CPS neighborhood schools. While I haven't seen updated numbers, it's unlikely the trend has changed: less than half of CPS students attended their assigned, in-boundary neighborhood school last year. The proliferation of charters is just one cause. Every spring on NPN we see the frenzy around trying to decide whether to take a spot at Awesome Elementary School or gamble on the wait list for Super Awesome Elementary School. Many of us elect to skip the CPS maze altogether and seek out the best private school option. While I don't intend to deprive anyone of all that fun, I just want to make a plea to anyone preparing for the 2017-18 school year to consider your CPS neighborhood public school.
It's easy to follow discussions on the NPN forum about school applications and individual schools and draw the conclusion that there are only a few good options for educating our kids. There are so many little neighborhood school gems that barely get airtime on this site and one of them may be walking distance from your home. Last year I posted a question about my neighborhood school, New Field in Rogers Park, and literally had zero responses from NPN members. I also looked on the Great Schools site and saw nothing. So I decided to visit and absolutely fell in love with this amazing school that was on no one's radar. We've since gotten really involved with a beautiful school community and my son is thriving, loves school, and has a classroom experience that is every bit as great as the pricey private school he attended. I wish someone had suggested to me what I'm asking of you: if you're currently fretting about what to do about school consider your neighborhood public school, too.
Opting out of your neighborhood school has a real impact on that school. Funding is driven by enrollment—your child brings what is likely a substantial per-pupil dollar amount to whatever public school he or she attends. An overwhelming majority of CPS schools lost enrollment last year resulting in reduction of resources and for some, the threat of underutilization and closure. A school's success is driven, in large part, by the community that rallies around it. A supportive and engaged parent group and LSC means the world to administrators, teachers and students alike. And a thriving public neighborhood school is one of the biggest drivers in making a community great!
I fully support anyone making the choice that's best for their children and family. I know there are religious reasons, special needs and other important considerations that drive where you send your kids to school. But if you're weighing your options, please make sure you pay your local neighborhood school a visit, talk to your neighbors who have children attending, sit in on an LSC meeting. Please to go forward fully informed. You may find your own little neighborhood school gem, and have a bigger impact on that school community than Betsy DeVos could ever have!
This post first appeared as a post in the NPN discussion forum. Become an NPN member to join conversations Chicago parents are having about school choice, parenting, relationships and more!
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Posted on March 13, 2017 at 4:34 PM