What if the principal discretion provision isn't legal, no matter how
closely it's followed? Why even allow discretion when all the other
already lotteried -- siblings, race, etc. -- and the waiting lists are
already there, too?
It's not just a theoretical question. These are public schools,
and there's a clearly established procedure for getting into them that
is supposed to be fair and equitable and, until recently, in compliance
with integration goals. And yet, the current discretion policy doesn't
even require principals to take kids off the lottery waiting lists or
to limit discretionary picks to those that would further integration
the current language isn't even clear about whether the five percent
applies to offers of admission, available spots, or actual enrollment,
which creates a very loose situation when it comes to counting
discretionary admits. The only real justification I can think of is
the deeply seated notion that clout in Chicago -- like bribery in some
other places -- simply can't be prevented. It can only be limited.
But that doesn't make it legal, and I'm surprised that the legal
eagles at CPS didn't consider this before expanding the program, that
the USDOJ didn't try and force the city to end it, or that a
disgruntled parent hasn't challenged a provision that effectively reduces the number of available lottery spots in highly-coveted schools.
Without a clear justification or obvious public good, giving principals five percent discretion is like
telling kids that they can cheat on tests five percent of the time, or
telling teachers that they can come to school drunk five percent of
the time. It's a mulligan, a "get out of jail" card.