The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

The student news site of Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, Illinois.

BEACON

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Is Selective Enrollment at Risk?

In mid-December of 2023, the Chicago Board of Education voted to approve a 5-year plan to improve neighborhood schools — but is that at the expense of selective enrollment? 

Selective enrollment schools like Whitney Young, Walter Payton, and Jones College Prep are CPS’s shining stars, composed of the most diverse and highest-achieving student bodies in the district. Whitney Young, opened in the 1970s as a response to the civil rights movement, has plucked its students from across Chicago’s segregated neighborhoods to become the most diverse high school in the city. But critics say that selective schools are just reinforcing Chicago’s racial and socioeconomic inequities — including Mayor Brandon Johnson, who described the system as a “Hunger Games scenario” while campaigning.

“In the 2023-2024 school year, CPS data shows a deep inequity for Black students, who now make up just 10% of the enrollment at those five schools, while White students make up about 30%,” wrote the Chicago Teachers’ Union in support of the Board’s vote. “This is especially concerning when white students make up less than 10% of students enrolled in the district.” The 5-year plan approved by the board aims to focus its resources on the neighborhood schools instead, which the majority of CPS students attend — and the majority of which are underfunded. 

“The Board has committed to working in partnership with our CPS communities to ensure the new plan helps develop high-quality PreK-12 pathways in neighborhood schools, prioritizing our most under-resourced communities,” the Chicago Board of Education wrote in a press release. It is hoped that this redirection will help level the playing field for Chicago teenagers, especially when applying for higher education. 

However, the Board has not made it abundantly clear what this means for the city’s selective enrollment schools; both the Board’s president, Jianan Shi, and Chicago Public Schools CEO, Pedro Martinez, have stated that the vote does not indicate the end of the school choice system. Keeping selective enrollment schools open and uplifting neighborhood schools don’t seem mutually exclusive, but given the response to the Board’s vote, it also doesn’t seem out of the question that increased funding for neighborhood schools will affect selective enrollment. The Board will likely offer clarity as they narrow down the details of their 5-year plan, but for now, the fate of Chicago’s highest-performing schools is up in the air. 

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Ava Martin
Ava Martin, Editor in Chief

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