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One question Chicago Public Schools leaders of color need to answer

The one question I would like top Latino and African American leaders of the Chicago Public Schools to answer is this: Do you see the inequality your decisions create among Chicago’s students of color?

According to the Pew Research Center, nationally, nearly half of U.S.-born Latinos are younger than 18. The article's title carries weight: "The Nation's Latino Population Is Defined by Its Youth."

In Chicago, the majority of Chicago Public Schools students are Latino at 46.5%.

Still, we see decision after decision by Chicago Public Schools leaders negatively affecting Latino youth and other students of color.

WBEZ education reported yesterday, “The seven predominantly-Latino high schools — Kelly, Schurz, Foreman, Roosevelt, Steinmetz, Kelvyn Park and Farragut — mostly dot the city’s Northwest and Southwest side. On average, each is projected to lose about $800,000 from their budgets.”

Some of this is due to decreased birthrates and families moving out of these neighborhoods, according to the article.

But Kelly High School students also mentioned the poor quality of their old high-school building that makes students turn to new buildings, most of them charter schools.

In January, Hancock College Prep students—students in the newest and only Selective Enrollment high school on the Southwest side—spoke at the CPS Board meeting and shared the poor conditions of this building.

There’s no way someone would look at Hancock, Jones, Northside, and Payton and conclude that all of these schools fall under the same school classification. The other college-prep high schools—where white, affluent students make up a significant population—received brand-new buildings.

CPS now plans on closing a successful elementary school in the South Loop—a community whose economic and political power has boomed with the gentrification there.

They want to make that building near Chinatown into a high school for local students.

The logic I’ve heard from Chinatown residents over and over is that the commute to Kelly High School is too far for Chinatown residents—even though the "L" and Archer bus are easily accessible. (I took up to three busses to get to a neighborhood high school in the late 80s. I didn’t attend my local high school.)

But when CPS closed 50 schools that served low-income students of color, it made signs and labeled long blocks as a “Safe Passage” so these students could walk farther to other schools.

I don’t know what goes through the minds of the Latino and African American leaders when they hear about inequality at Board meetings. They usually sit there stoically, silently.

Hancock students heard lots of compliments from some of them when they spoke. Those students clearly demonstrated the intellect, social skills, and potential our low-income students of color exhibit when given opportunities.

But nothing’s happened to change the situation at Hancock.

The only thing that keeps happening citywide is low-income students of color continue to attend schools with less money and longer lists of things that need to be repaired.

So Janice Jackson, Jaime Guzman, Frank Clark, Arne Rivera, Mahalia Hines-- do you see the inequality your decisions create among Chicago’s students of color? Or no?

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