$30M Building for Lincoln Park?

Lost in the flurry of news last week was the story of Lincoln Elementary's quest for a $30 million middle school on the site of the Children's Memorial Hospital site, which is slated for redevelopment.  Yikes.  It's just a request from the LSC -- not even a unanimous one -- but it's already got the alderman and some of the city's big names involved.

Everyone knows how overcrowded Lincoln Elementary has become.  Just a few months ago we were taking about how the principal had sent out a warning letter to parents about the rules governing who can and can't enroll. ("Faux" Lincoln ES Parents Warned)

The story first came to light  (North Side development caught in crossfire over schools), which reported that some parents want to redraw boundaries and give Lincoln Park kids access to LaSalle.

Crain's covered it, too (Fight over former Children's Memorial Hospital campus roils Lincoln Park), noting objections against the LaSalle objections. [This has also come up in the past, last winter An Early Xmas For LaSalle.

Still, the request is pretty aggressive.  Last week's Mary Mitchell's column (Lincoln Park school pushing cash-strapped CPS for new facility) noted what a ballsy move it was for the LSC -- and that it just might work.

Ironically, enrollment isn't as high as was expected this year. Here's a link to the LSC page, with the October 9 letter.




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  • there was also some talk about phasing out lasalle to ease lincoln overcrowding last winter -- remember? me neither.


  • I do not understand how building a bigger Lincoln makes sense, Chicago does not need a bigger Lincoln, we need more neighborhood schools like Lincoln. Don't underestimate the value of communities where children can walk to school, don't overlook the value of the k-8 model.

    There are two magnet schools in the current Lincoln boundaries. According to the CPS 2011-2012 space utilization report Lasalle's enrollment was 577, ideal program enrollment is stated as 540. Newberry has an ideal enrollment of 660 and had an actual enrollment of 559. CPS lists them as a -15% on the Space Utilization Index. Newberry is 100 students under their ideal enrollment, and they are a magnet who can control enrollment numbers.

    The neighborhood schools surrounding Lincoln, Alcott just a few blocks to the the north, Manierre and Jenner, just a few blocks to the south of Lincoln's southern border, are all significantly underutilized. Alcott, ideal enrollment of 720, actual last year was 474 (and Alcott has a large percentage of children who are out of the neighborhood boundary), Manierre's ideal enrollment is 960 and 2011/2012 actual enrollment was 394. Jenner is also significantly underenrolled with an ideal enrollment of 690 and an actual last year of 313. Jenner and Manierre are both just a few a few blocks south of LaSalle and Newberry.

    Mayer, not in Lincoln's neighborhood boundaries but another magnet school a short distance away is underutilized as well with an 2011/2012 enrollment of 594 and a stated ideal program enrollment of 900.

    I realize the CPS utilization numbers are based on large class sizes. However, some of these buildings are underenrolled by nearly 50%. Lincoln has stated that they want a solution that does not impact other schools, but that is not how CPS works. Decisions have to be made looking at the big picture. In this economy, and with CPS experiencing a budget deficit that is likely to continue, how do you ignore these underutilization numbers. We live in a City of changing neighborhoods and demogrpahics, CPS needs to adjust to those changes and parents and community members need to adjust to those changes as well.

    It is "ideas week" in Chicago, so here's a thought. Maybe it is time to revisit the magnet school model. Why can't a magnet program move a few blocks to the south and bring all that is desirable about a magnet to those few students in a failing school. Maybe that should be our turnaround model? Invest a few million in expanding a desirable magnet program to a different location and include those underserved students who have not had access to a magnet school for whatever reason.......transportation, lack of parental involvement perhaps. Let's look at creative ways to use current CPS resources to benefit as many children as possible while being fiscally responsible.

  • Is race playing a role in this issue?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    It's more complicated than that. People want their kids to attend school with a cohort of children from well educated, financially successful families. But you can see how multiple decisions made on that basis could add up in ways that have a disproportionately negative impact on children from lower middle class and poor non-white families in Chicago.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "Could add up" and, sadly, have.

  • Headache299
    Also ‘lost in the flurry’ is Brizard’s 18 months of CPS ‘service’. Cost to Chicago taxpayers: $750,000.00.

    18 months for Brizard to earn $750,000.00.
    Yet it takes 18 years for one of those ‘overpaid’ union teachers.

    And isn’t $750,000.00 about 1/3 cost of one small ‘underutilized’ school’s operating budget?

    Any taxpayers pissed?

  • As an alumnus of Lincoln School (class of 1967) the proposed expansion to the school is not shocking. Those of us who grew up in the Lincoln School intake area in the late 1950s and 1960s whose families had the basic wealth to own and retain property in that area generally became wealthy. My father who was a union leader made more money than he could have ever dreamed of making and I am a direct beneficiary of that wealth even today. Those families that bought homes and even apartment buildings for 10 or 20 thousand dollars sold them for $900,000 to well over a million dollars by the 1990s.

    Part of the appeal of the intake area is the school; in fact Hansen Realty founded in 1970 by a family that owned several homes across from the school has made millions over the decades in the intake area and used Lincoln School as a sales point for over pricing condos or rentals for years. Moreover, in the Children’s development project there is also the issue of impact fees and massive new property taxes going to the city. The hospital was tax exempt and now millions will be landing in the city’s and CPS’ pockets. Therefore, as I said, I am not surprised at all by the Lincoln School LSC’s vote.

    As to arguments relating to CPS not being able to afford to build the new Lincoln School I think that could also be applies to the conversion of the current Malcom X College to a CPS high school for the arts and other selective projects. So the CPS Board President when he starts pleading poverty is somewhat hypocritical given how political capital projects have been in this town for a very long time. Some residents of the intake area no doubt were particularly upset with the CPS Board President because they saw how he made money for himself when he was at the Chicago Board of Trade before it became part of the CME Corp, so who is he to talk about not taking care of your own?

    Do I think it is right that wealthy enclaves of the city should get material educational advantages over the mass of poor students and schools in the city? Of course not, but when political deals are cut like the building of the new Odgen School they generate other higher income communities to want their cut too.

    There is also another very sad reality to the situation. If you examine the property taxes being generated just by the Lincoln School intake area alone it could easily equal those of up to a dozen or more elementary school intake areas in Chicago’s poorest communities. The truth is an intake area like Lincoln School’s effectively provides a vast subsidy to CPS far beyond the cost of educating the intake areas children. But the truth also is this is part of what could be called the obligation of the upper income residents of the city. Its similar to how the lords of feudal manors provided for the poor to keep the peasants from storming their manor houses all while keeping the poor in servitude. I have friends who still live in the intake area and I am sure they do not see themselves as in anyway as part of some type of urban ruling elite and no doubt would bristle at my comments. They do after all vote Democratic, support President Obama, and haven’t moved to the north shore after all.

    Rod Estvan

  • Dear Mr. Estvan,

    I am not your friend or former classmate. But I am not only offended by your comments. I was brought to tears.

    Explain to me why you believe a wealthier community has any less right than a less-fortunate one to work together to find a way to keep our community together?

    Why does our community matter LESS than a poorer community you and others (and myself) champion in their own efforts to not be overcome by charters or be splintered by closings.

    Whether rich or poor. North or South. Every community deserves equal respect.

    Lincoln is a community. We have taken the high road in trying NOT to infringe upon the magnet schools which surround us in finding a solution.

    But apparently, we're damned if we do. Damned if we don't.

    Eighteen months ago, CPS came to Lincoln with a proposal to demagnetize LaSalle to accommodate Lincoln's growth, Lincoln (unlike LaSalle) did NOT put another school's programs on the chopping block as part of that solution.

    That proposal was pulled off the table less than one week after it was announced. And we sit with no solution for 18 months.

    But in that week, we were told by friends and neighbors from the threatened magnets that we should divide our community and send our kids to four different nearby neighborhood schools. We should take away the programs that make Lincoln Lincoln - programs like IG - to make more room. (Which would not affect the overcrowding situation at all.) We were told that our French program should be disbanded (which does NOT take any kids outside of our boundaries, by the way).

    I believe you were among the voices advocating against demagnetizing LaSalle. But yet you are okay with the fact that we could be splintered or destroyed instead? They should not lose their world languages, but we should lose our sole language?
    Again, why is one community more important than another?

    Now you literally label us as "feudal lords."

    Damned if we do.

    Do you know my Lincoln neighbor and friend, a full-time working mom with a full-time working husband living as a family of 5 in a 2 bedroom, one bath condominium? A feudal lord? Have you met my friend who is also a single Lincoln mom, working as a CPS high school teacher in one of the toughest South Side public high schools? She lives with her daughter in a studio apartment in, yes, the Lincoln District. Oh. And yes. In her spare time, she is a feudal lord.

    I am tired of this name-calling. I am tired of hearing Lincoln being called elitist and "morally reprehensible" (as we were called at a recent LSC meeting). Unlike magnet and selective enrollment schools, a neighborhood school, does not have to defend its demographics. We are what we are.

    More than 130 Lincoln district children attend magnet schools. Are they morally reprehensible for taking valuable seats away from children without an incredible "guaranteed" choice like Lincoln? I would not call them that. Would you?

    Yet we are elitists for NOT taking away those seats??

    Would it surprise you to know that my child's class has kids of Japanese, Hispanic, African-American and Chinese descent -- totaling almost 40% of her class? I'm sure it would, because misconceptions abound. Would it surprise you to know that class includes kids who speak Polish, French, Greek, Spanish, Chinese Bosnian, Thai, and Japanese (some as second languages and some as first)?

    How much diversity can any one so-called "elitist" school display before that line of discussion can end for good.

    Children's Memorial and Lincoln Park Hospital (now Webster Square) are both developments which benefit greatly from the value of being located in the Lincoln District. They are ADDING capacity and future students to an overcrowded school but are somehow, someway under no obligation to help make provisions for their education -- or the building's impact on our school.

    Shame on the city for not making school impact a factor in these developments.

    What makes neighborhoods like Lincoln, Blaine, Bell, (who are getting additions) and more so valuable is that people move there to avoid the insanity of the CPS system. We move here to walk to school with friends. And it's neighborhoods like ours -- who invest in our neighborhood schools and do not flee the city -- that help make entire city stronger.

    So, here we are. We've been "rejected" by our own friends and neighbors and their untouchable magnet schools. We take the high road to advocate for a solution that does not infringe upon magnet schools or other neighborhood schools. And we search for an answer without taking money from CPS.

    And we are damned yet again.

    Oh. And I am voting Obama. Again.

  • In reply to anonymous:

    Your comments were kinder than some that I recieved via phone from three people I grew up with that still live in the intake area. I expected this. I have yet to hear from either Rick Hansen or Roy Junior. I am sorry I made you cry, but sometimes reality bites.

    The reality of Chicago is what it is and I have no doubt there are less than wealthy teachers living in the Lincoln School intake area. As to the issue of kids attending Lincoln School who speak Polish, French, Greek, Spanish, Chinese Bosnian, Thai, and Japanese (some as second languages and some as first) the percent of Limited-English-Proficient students at Lincoln is only about 5.5% compared to a city average of 15.8% or even a statewide average of 8.8%.

    But it is true that Lincoln School is racially more diverse than the community it is located in, it is about 62-63% white and the census data indicates the community is 86% white. Just for reference purposes according to the 2010 census Chicago was 45.0% white.

    In terms of the social economics of the intake area we need only look at income for the zip code. The average individual income of residents of the community was $90,325 based on income tax returns. About 15.3% of the income tax returns were for gross adjusted individual incomes above $200,000 a year. For the city as a whole only 5% of residents had incomes at that level. The average house value was $520,900 which includes condos.

    I think trying to make a diversity argument for the Lincoln School addition is simply very weak. Let's be clear about this, public school construction in this City is not about equity and in some cases it is not even about over crowding.

    Here is what I think upsets anonymous, while there are without question families that are not wealthy in the intake area the statistics are what they are. Lincoln School has very few low income students, 14% compared to a CPS average of 86%. I don't think one has to try to defend Lincoln School's proposal based on either income diversity or racial diversity. People pay a lot of property taxes in that neighborhood and they want a return on their investment.

    It is what it is and I personally owe Lincoln School for an excellent education and in terms of personal wealth. I also have a relative who still attends the school and is probably getting a better education that even I did. Lincoln School has just about the highest average ISAT scores for disabled students in the state too.

    I don't think the proposal needs to be justified by various arguments relating to overcrowding or getting rid of magnet schools as an alternative, they will likely eventually be eliminated based on busing costs anyway which is tragic in my opinion. After Odgen School this community needs to make no apologies. By the way I live in a wealthy enclave myself in Uptown, that is what it is too.

    Rod Estvan

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Since other almost empty schools in poverty neighborhoods will close and have been closed, Lincoln residents should have to send their children to Jenner and other nearby schools that sit 1/2 full. Have you seen Jenner?--it is a new building and wonderful! Some of Lincoln's teachers could go there with Lincoln students. Cabrini Green is gone--wake up and share with an empty school near you. Why should taxpayers have to pay for 1/2 empty schoools, just becasue Lincoln wants more?
    And has the school checked to see if ALL those children overcrowding the school, really live there? Try that too.

  • In reply to Rodestvan:

    Cabrini Green is gone--go to Jenner--it is 1/2 full and a great building. Why should taxpayers have to pay for 1/2 full or less schools? They push poverty kids out to other schools when they close a school--sometimes up to 3 schools these kids attend over 3 years, so move to Jenner and bring some Lincoln teachers with you.
    Have you checked to see if ALL the kids attending Lincon live within the school boundaries--bet they dont!

  • Mr. Estvan,

    I appreciate your having taken the time to respond. I truly do.

    Don't worry. This issue has just weighed so heavily on me for so long that any comments can make me cry.

    As you noted, I cannot apologize for the demographics of our neighborhood. Nor should I have to.

    HOWEVER, unlike magnet or SE schools (e.g., Edison at 7.1% low income), demographics ARE regularly and viciously (not by you) used against us at every turn.

    There is an odd political hypocrisy in this city. CPS and the city want our tax money. They flaunt our neighborhood. They want us to stay in the city. They want our children to go to CPS and bring their numbers up. They want our votes. They want our fundraising dollars. They want their buddies to get rich from developments in our neighborhood that impact the size of our school.

    But when it comes time for us to need something from the city or CPS, as you noted, it seems we have to do so apologetically. And expect nothing.

    Sorry. I won't post anymore. Again, thank you for taking the time to respond. I really do appreciate it and your insights. Always.

    I hope you can mend fences with your Lincoln neighborhood friends. : )

  • Anonymous from Lincoln Park:
    Stop crying! Stop whining! Let me get this right, you are stressed out because your future neighbors may have to chose between two great schools, Lincoln and LaSalle, both located in wealthy, white, safe Lincoln Park within walking distance to their fancy houses? Sounds like "white people problems" to me. How about the parent who has to send her child to a failing CPS school in a neighborhood where her child may be shot on the way to school. Yes, that is right, this occurs in the same city and in the same school system that you are demanding $30 million dollars from. Why don't you cry for those children, why doesn't that "weigh so heavily" on you? I think you are really a Mitt supporter.

  • Look, if you are paying attention Mitt and Barack really aren't that different. Obama's DoE education policies are actually WORSE than those under Bush. You may think labeling someone a Mitt supporter is an insult, but implying that an Obama supporter is somehow much better is a joke.

  • OK, politics aside, I am just concerned about a good education for my kids. I really just want a small school that my kids can walk to, which is why we chose Lincoln. My kids' friends live down the block, and life is simple, so we can focus on our homework after school and still have time to play. Why all the fuss about expanding Lincoln into this huge school? Is this really the only option? I don't really care if my kids go to school at Lincoln or LaSalle or Newberry or wherever, as long as there are good teachers and space to play. What really bugs me about this whole thing is that I heard the teachers were not even in favor of the Children's project at all, and that they think that a smaller K8 is better for the kids. (!!!!!) I have the same opinion as them, which is why we chose a small school. I was confused then why they voted in favor of the project, but I do know that when I posted comments on the WALE site earlier in the year, they nearly bit my head off, and I have decided to lay way low on this one. I wonder if the same thing has happened to the teachers here. I think they really just want to teach and don't want to get mired in the politics of our parent base. But bottom line is that we need to stop being so fixated on Lincoln. There seems to be a hysteria surrounding being attached to a certain school that is sending people over the edge (look at Anonymous above) There are other good schools out there and around us. Frankly, many of them are looking way more attractive than Lincoln right now! If they have slightly lower test scores, it doesn't mean the teachers are not as good, it probably just means that they have more socioeconomic diversity, which is a good thing. Isn't that why we all decided to stay in the city anyways? There has just got to be a way to use those schools for the future of Lincoln Park in a way that makes sense for everyone without making us go bankrupt.

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