Chicago Public Schools’ overcrowding dilemma
Chicago Public Schools’ plan to alleviate overcrowding in schools on the city’s west and north sides is a costly, jumbled mess. Its initial decision to provide $20 million to Lincoln Elementary to alleviate overcrowding at the school, even though it’s the 17th most overcrowded school in the city, was met with fierce resistance. Teachers and...
Chicago Public Schools’ plan to alleviate overcrowding in schools on the city’s west and north sides is a costly, jumbled mess.
Its initial decision to provide $20 million to Lincoln Elementary to alleviate overcrowding at the school, even though it’s the 17th most overcrowded school in the city, was met with fierce resistance. Teachers and parents from other, more-crowded schools across the city accused CPS of playing favorites by providing money to an affluent and politically well-connected neighborhood before everyone else.
CPS later claimed that it was the least disruptive way to provide relief to the school, but that argument has fallen on deaf ears, primarily because CPS has made so many other poor decisions this past year.
CPS also has solicited applications for new charter schools to help alleviate overcrowding.
In August, it put out a request for proposals for charter elementary schools in nine areas — Albany Irving, Ashburn, Belmont Cragin, Chicago Lawn, McKinley Park, Midway, Little Village, Reed-Dunning and Sauganash — and for charter high schools on the southwest and northwest sides.
But, since CPS transitioned to a student-based budgeting system that provides traditional public schools and charter schools with the same spending per student, using charter schools to reduce overcrowding will not save any money for cash-strapped Chicago, which it desperately needs to put a dent in its massive $1 billion deficit next year.
The district should be looking to a more cost-effective option for relieving overcrowding at private schools.
Providing students in overcrowded schools with scholarships that they could use to attend private schools would save the city millions of dollars, primarily because private school tuition at all but the most elite institutions usually is less than what CPS spends per student. It also would guarantee many students access to a higher quality education.
CPS’s recent track-record is dismal. It oversees a district that has both under-used and overcrowded schools.
This is an anomaly that a market in education would quickly correct, as parents would move their children to less-crowded schools and/or schools would decide to expand in response to increased demand.
CPS also has shown bad judgment in the way it managed its budget, the school closings fiasco and the adoption of a new promotion policy that pushes students to the next grade even when they’re not ready.
Allowing students in overcrowded schools to go to nearby private schools is a no-brainer.
Students will be able to attend schools with smaller class sizes and be taught by quality teachers. Skeptics of CPS will be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the overcrowding issue is out of the district’s hands. And Chicago will be able to save money that it desperately needs to plug its massive budget deficit.