Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed an education policy requiring all high school students to submit a “post-graduation plan” in order to receive their diploma.
Beginning with the class of 2020, students must provide written proof that they have been accepted to a college or gap-year program, have joined the military or acquired a full-time job, according to the Washington Post.
The Editorial Board believes this plan puts an undue burden on high school seniors, proposes a solution to something that isn’t a problem and detracts from the issue of funding for Chicago Public Schools.
In May, Emanuel’s administration accepted a $389 million loan at an interest rate of over 35% just to keep Chicago Public Schools open through the end of the year and pay teacher pensions, according to ABC 7 News in Chicago.
Months prior, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that would have funded CPS, in part, and promised to veto another bill last month that would give an additional $300 million in state funding to CPS, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
The Chicago Public School System is in the middle of a funding crisis, riddled by legislative and partisan gridlock. Mayor Emanuel should not be creating more unnecessary graduation requirements, while many of the city’s public schools are in the middle of shutting down.
The plan itself, to make matters worse, is hardly a solution to anything.
According to the Chicago Tribune, a “top CPS official also acknowledged, however, that every Chicago public high school graduate essentially already meets the new standard because graduation guarantees admittance to the City Colleges of Chicago community college system.”
And if Emanuel is truly concerned with the success of high school students after graduation, he should know that research from the Brookings Institute concluded that “cities and towns with pronounced income inequality of residential populations are more likely to see higher rates of secondary school drop-outs, and lower graduation rates.”
In Chicago, where 80 percent of all students live in households deemed “economically disadvantaged” and 49 schools located in primarily low-income neighborhoods have closed over the last several years, according to NPR, the effects of income inequality are exacerbated by the funding crisis that seems to being taking priority over this post-graduation plan proposal.
But what’s most worrisome about Emanuel’s leadership ability is what he said during the press conference at which he announced the plan.
“If you change your expectations, it’s not hard for kids to adapt,” Emanuel asserted.
The Editorial Board sees this conviction as grossly out of touch with the trials and tribulations of low-income high school students, operating within an educational system that’s crumbling around them.
According to the Brookings Institution, the City of Chicago ranks eighth on the income inequality index.
On top of the police brutality and gun violence rampant throughout the city, the environmental conditions simply don’t exist for students to have the resources necessary to simply “adapt.”
The Editorial Board believes Mayor Emanuel should scrap this proposal and focus his attention on securing education funding, reducing income inequality, combating gun violence and fostering respectful relationships between students, teachers and other community leaders.
Creating an environment in which students can thrive will do much more than threatening to withhold their degrees.