Chicago Public Schools leaders ignore Southwest side teens—again

At Wednesday’s Board meeting, Chicago Public Schools leaders approved $300 million for construction projects—but none of this will go to improve the facilities at Hancock College Prep, the city’s newest Selective Enrollment high school and the first and only magnet high school on the Southwest side.

In January, six Hancock students and I spoke at the Board meeting to emphasize the inequality between the facilities at Hancock and other Selective Enrollment high schools.

Students mentioned having to share the small gym with three other P.E. classes, how art classes are held in a balcony above a noisy gym, how the green space behind the school is not functionally landscaped, how the library is limited with study space, how anyone whose visits Northside, Payton, or Jones College Prep—which all got brand-new buildings—will see the blatant inequality.  Still–our students learn at high levels.

But no, the Chicago Board of Education members did not vote to use the available funds to build the Southwest side the new Selective-Enrollment high school this community deserves–or to even upgrade our current facilities.

So our promising students—who follow the footsteps of students who have gone on to Northwestern and Cornell before our school used test scores for admission—must continue to learn in a leftover, old, all-girls’ Catholic school building that was never intended to provide a comprehensive 21st century education experience.  The plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling—the structure and design of the building—are problematic, inadequate, and limiting.

But maybe it’s our community’s fault.

So many of the families around Hancock—and almost 100% of the Selective Enrollment students live close by—are new arrivals to this community.  Like my family, many of them started out in neighborhoods like Little Village, the 26th Street neighborhood.  So the nicer homes and greener lawns in 60629 make us complacent. “It’s better than what we used to have.”

Plus we do not posses the voting power that other neighborhoods do.

We definitely do not have Latinx leadership sufficient to advocate for our community.  In a questionable move, fifteen members of the district’s Latino Advisory Committee—which included few with teaching experience—resigned in protest when budget cuts adversely hit predominately Latinx schools.

Shouldn’t that have been their opportunity to demand a seat at the table instead of walking away?

The Board members and the mayor say our district is broke.  But it’s clear that Chicago Public Schools and the city have money for the projects they see value in–for the projects they see political value in.

So the mostly Latinx teen population on this side of Midway Airport—not the side where cops and firefighters and lots of other city workers live—will remain ignored.

What they have now isn’t ideal. But it’s better than what they used to have.

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