An Early Xmas For LaSalle

As I posted in comments last night, an unconfirmed letter sent to LaSalle parents and teachers indicates that Team Brizard have reconsidered the wisdom of de-magnetizing the school as a way to relieve Lincoln Elementary overcrowding.

"While one possible solution included changing LaSalle’s status as a magnet school, that option will not be pursued and LaSalle’s status as a magnet school remains in place."

Was the LaSalle idea really just an option?  Did the folks at 125 S. Clark Street really think that there wouldn't be enormous pushback both public and behind the scenes?  Is this a good sign for other folks making their cases -- Casals, Crane -- or a bad one?

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  • The biggest problem with the proposal was how white and higher income the new LaSalle likely would have been. The next biggest problem was the fact that Lincoln School's overcrowding is in part driven by out of area students admitted into citywide programs at that elementary school.

    So in order to reduce overcrowding at Lincoln another citywide program had to be eliminated at LaSalle. That was a very poor decision and it was a good decision to back off taking LaSalle off the magnet school list. But I do expect that one day CPS will argue it can no longer afford to provide free busing to magnet programs for elementary school students.

    Rod Estvan

  • True Rod--CPS was testing the waters here--LaSalle would have lost or had to pay for, their own world language teachers too! Not cool.

  • In regards to the question of what does this mean for Casals or Crane, I would say it means nothing for those schools. LaSalle was kept open because it is highly white and very high income overall. CPS listens to rich, white families. Casals and Crane are neither, so CPS will do whatever it wants with those schools.

  • via WBEZ here's the CPS document that kicked off the hullabaloo surrounding lasalle

    http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/extras/2011-December/2011-12-21/CPS-QA.pdf

    WBEZ notes in its update that the demagnetization option was recommended, not just one of several possible ways to go

    http://www.wbez.org/story/cps-backs-away-magnet-school-overhaul-95094

  • To LaSalle parent Keith Thomas. “It has never made sense to us... what they were recommending—and we still feel as though there still could be something coming where we’re involved.”
    Dear Mr. Thomas: There will be something comming, but you will NOT be involved. Watch CPS like a hawk. They calmed you now. They have time and power to do what they want--look at Edison. It can happen to you and may still, next month, next year...

  • Lasalle 2 would have been affected by the demagnetizing of the Lasalle 1 as well. CPS wanted to add seats to LL2. They are already up to 600+ kids . Christmas came early to both LaSalles'

  • s

  • Oops. Ignore my one-letter comment above.

    I normally agree with you, Rod, but not this time. LaSalle is, as teacherparent pointed out, already a high-income, increasingly-white school. Its percentage of low-income is similar to Lincoln's and since Lincoln's student body is larger, that means it is serving more low-income kids than LaSalle. (The most popular magnet, Hawthorne, is almost 43% white and even less low-income.) There is also a significant low-income, African-American population in the Lincoln district, many residing literally a block from LaSalle ... who are forced to walk to Lincoln, a mile away. Lincoln is a diverse school whose population is INCREASINGLY neighborhood -- up to 98% in the lower grades. There is literally a handful of out-of-district people coming in through the IG program in the upper grades. These kids did not cause the overcrowding.

    Plus, there are two huge construction programs in the district bringing hundreds of new housing units. Hundreds.

    Where are all these kids supposed to go to school?? Why isn't anyone concerned about that?

    The solution CPS proposed was a fine solution and it did not disrupt LaSalle as no one is supposed to know who gets accepted each year, anyway. It seems the fear of having to go to school with "non-chosen" neighborhood kids was too intense. Next year's kindergarten would have been very diverse and may actually have increased the socio-economic diversity of the school. The parents who had children coming into LaSalle were thrilled at the prospect of being able to walk to school. They were not scared about its potentially becoming a "lowly" neighborhood school. They were excited to work hard to fund the language program, just as Lincoln parents fund what makes Lincoln great.
    Why is it that the needs of a few, well-connected people outweigh the needs for neighborhood kids to be able to walk to school?
    Why didn't they just move LaSalle if they wanted to save that "program"? It could have been relocated to an area with a proximity boundary that might actually improve its racial and socio-economic diversity.
    I'd feel differently if LaSalle served a different community. But it does not. The community it serves is becoming higher income, less diverse, and more and more living primarily within the 1.5 mile proximity, anyway ... about the distance to Lincoln. That's hardly "citywide" anymore. The lifting of the consent decree changed all that. Again, if the consent decree were still in place, I might have a different opinion. But, it is not.

    As a believer in neighborhood schools, I'm kind of tired of everyone jumping to the defense of magnet schools without looking at the total picture. Magnets do not always serve the populations you think they do -- or should. And sometimes, change needs to be made. And I think that neighborhood kids can reclaim their schools. LaSalle used to be a neighborhood school, after all.

    This was a fine solution. I think the better solution would have been to move LaSalle to where its proximity lottery could serve a more diverse population, however. That way its students and teachers could remain in tact and a popular magnet could once again serve a broader population than it currently does.

    My guess the plan was stopped by LaSalle's connected families. I saw no word from CPS saying they were wrong about their decision ... only that LaSalle would not be part of it. And, as was pointed out above, they weighed different options and RECOMMENDED this one. So, what really happened?

    And more important, what about neighborhood kids? Don't they matter?

  • In reply to anonymous:

    Of course neighborhood kids matter. But the wealthy and powerful, and the kids of the wealthy and powerful, matter more.

    It's interesting to see the parental response in this situation. WE have to remember that there are large swaths of Chicago where there is NO neighborhood school whatsoever to which neighborhood children can walk. All the schools in these community have been either closed, phased out, or converted to selective charter status.

    These communities have been largely unsuccessful in fighting back against CPS policies. Is it, perhaps, because they are black, brown, and poor as opposed to wealthy, powerful, and white?

    Who does the mayor listen to? Who does the Board of Ed value? Who does the CEO think is important?

    The answers are obvious.

  • From the best census data I have seen if LaSalle's magnet status was dropped the low-income percentage of students admitted to that school most likely would have declined to about 14% based on the new intake area lines. LaSalle currently has about 22% low-income. So clearly a hand full of low-income students are getting access to this school via the lottery process.

    The fact that LaSalle is only 22% low-income in a school system that is about 86% low income and supposedly has an open lottery enrollment process is without question an issue. But the solution is not to set up the school so even fewer low-income children have access to the school. I do know since the proximity lottery began the percentage of low-income children at LaSalle School has declined very little. Unless the lottery is totally rigged I have to assume the quality of this school is simply not known in poor communities, whereas LaSalle like Decatur Classical for example is a common topic of discussion among upper income parents with pre-school children. I like all long time residents of Chicago have heard the stories about parents effectively beating the lottery at LaSalle in different ways, I can't prove any of those stories.

    Over all I believe CPS made the correct decision in backing off taking away magnet status from LaSalle. Lincoln school parents should focus on getting real benefits for their school from impact fees new developments would be required to pay and carefully considering whether or not citywide programs in the future should be located at the school including the French program.

    Having gone to Lincoln School I know there is no real space for expansion except to go up, which would require some very creative engineering. But the enclosed green house that was added to the existing Lincoln School building was creatively done so it might be possible.

    Rod Estvan

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