Last week's blog post about the effort by the LSC at Lincoln Elementary to push for an annex expansion as part of the Children's Memorial Hospital redevelopment generated a lot of readers and comments -- about Lincoln Park, race, equity, and other core issues. You can see it here. Now, here's some more about the divisions among Lincoln Elementary School parents and the Lincoln Park community, via a reader email below. Basically, some of the parents want the expansion/annex, while others (a second group, seeking to block or change the response to overcrowding at Lincoln) work to find other responses). Take a look and tell us what you make of it, or if you're a parent or community member tell us what it's like.
LETTER [email dated 10/18]
Dear Lincoln Parent,
We know you are concerned about Lincoln overcrowding. Decisions will be
made very soon about how this problem will be addressed by the Mayor and
CPS. Attached to this email are letter templates to make it easy for you
to advocate for sensible and inexpensive solutions to Lincoln's
overcrowding. It is vital that the key decision makers hear the voices of
concerned parents who are against diverting tens of millions of scarce
public funds for our narrow interests as proposed by the Lincoln School
There are sensible and inexpensive solutions to Lincoln's overcrowding
that have been set aside by the Lincoln School Council. The attached
letters describe several such solutions, including one that involves no
financial cost and very little disruption to our community. Please take
the time to read them and consider sending them in your name to the key
decision-makers. Let them hear our voices so that we can bring an end to
overcrowding without tarnishing the reputation of our community.
Lincoln Parents for Rational Solutions to Lincoln's Overcrowding
EMAIL [sent to me 10/19]
Here are the most current developments in the Lincoln Elementary School demand for a $30 million annex.
The Demand Letter was sent by Lincoln’s LSC to CPS for the annex.
The Lincoln LSC set up two principles that guided their quest for solutions and finally their demand to CPS. First, the solution could not separate or remove any current families, or future families, from the current Lincoln district. That move, especially the “future” families portion, was made to protect property values that may be negatively impacted by being redistricted out of Lincoln to anywhere else in the CPS system (one can investigate the heads of the WALE group to confirm this fact).
The second principle which guided them was that they may not consider any solution which may impact another school in any way. These two principles, pushed for by the pro-build WALE crowd, have essentially hobbled the LSC, ruled out any moderate or reasonable solutions and left only one solution, expansion of Lincoln Elementary, on the table.
This process has left many of the Lincoln community frustrated, dumbfounded and embarrassed that such an outrageous, expensive and inequitable proposal could have gotten so far. Hence, the formation of “Lincoln Parents for Rational Solutions to Lincoln’s Overcrowding”, which is a group of parents looking for a forum to present their ideas but unwilling to expose themselves or their children to repercussions given the level of acrimony and intimidation that has occurred toward anyone who opposed the $30 million option.
To further complicate matters, one of the most respected and dominate teachers at Lincoln has a son who is a newly elected WALE (pro-build, anti-redistricting) member of the LSC. He has a young child and made the mistake of buying a house south of Armitage several years ago. The teachers and the principal flipping to support the project also makes parents reticent to speak out. Therefore, this group of parents, not willing to have their names revealed anywhere, has sent out their alternate proposal via anonymous email, after the Lincoln LSC made the incorrect and bold assertion that they had “united the community” behind the $30 million Lincoln expansion. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Lincoln Parents for Rational Solutions to Lincoln’s Overcrowding has been engaged and researching this issue every step of the way. However after analyzing available data, they cannot in good conscience advocate for a $30 million gift to Lincoln Elementary School when there is so much need elsewhere in the CPS system. CPS is responsible for educating over 404,000 students in 681 schools, over 90% of those are students of color and 84% live below the poverty level. CPS is currently running a $1 billion deficit and has an excess of 200,000 seats compared to enrolled students in its current portfolio of schools. CPS is scheduled to close 100 schools.
Lincoln Elementary School over the past decade has had an average enrollment growth of approximately 20 students per year. Given the disposable income and the options many in this wealthy neighborhood have had, many in Lincoln Park have chosen to attend private schools in the past. However in 2009, when the recession hit, Lincoln’s enrollment climbed for 3 years. This year, enrollment dropped from the projected 858 to 780. Lincoln is currently 24 students over its Maximum Enrollment Efficiency Range. What did this level of overcrowding prompt the Lincoln LSC to “demand”, a $30 million annex for 24 students! The estimates from both the CMH project and the LPH developments are approximately 65 students and 10-15 students respectively, less than 100 students total. Still easily manageable within CPS’s current portfolio of schools.
Within Lincoln Park, some within 3 blocks of Lincoln Elementary School, are 4 more CPS elementary schools: Alcott, Mayer, Newberry and LaSalle. These 4 schools currently have 2204 students enrolled and their combined ideal capacity is 2820; that is an excess of 616 seats! Directly south of Lincoln’s district are two more schools, Manierre and Jenner. They have currently have 707 students enrolled and their joint ideal capacity is 1650; that is an excess of 942 seats! Combined, in CPS schools immediately surrounding Lincoln Elementary, there are over 1500 excess seats compared to students. Lincoln Park does not have an overcrowding problem, CPS has a distribution problem.
What is the real issue? The Lincoln Park community is 86% white in a city that is 45% white. The average income of LP residents is over $90,000. per year. This issue is about property values and fear. Fortunately, there are sane, moderate and fair people who live in Lincoln Park too. Should scare public resources be used to further concentrate the wealthy, white minority of CPS students in an enclave in Lincoln Park? Should this be allowed in a public school system so needy? Apparently, many in Lincoln Park do not think so and are willing organize and do something about it.