Target: Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett
Goal: Keep under-enrolled high schools on Chicago’s south and west sides open
Under-enrollment in Chicago’s public high schools remains a divisive issue as Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union argue over whether to close or to keep struggling schools. While the city claims that schools with empty desks are exacerbating a mounting $1 billion deficit, teachers, parents, and other advocates of the schools in question argue that forcing students to travel to new schools is an unfair and dangerous course of action.
The harsh reality is that gang violence still determines to a large degree which areas are safe for teenagers in Chicago’s most impoverished neighborhoods. Students who are forced to cross gang lines while traveling to new schools may find their daily commute suddenly life-threatening. Homicides in Chicago totaled more than 500 in 2012, and many of the murders were likely motivated by gang rivalries. Putting students in harm’s way by requiring that they enter gang territory to get to class doesn’t solve the educational crisis currently facing Chicago’s education system; it simply consolidates students into fewer troubled schools.
The city needs to address school under-enrollment by diminishing the high school dropout rate and introducing comprehensive extracurricular programs to keep teenagers in class and out of gangs. Closing schools won’t heal the scars of violence on Chicago’s poorest areas. Investment, not deprivation, is the only way to ensure that going to school in Chicago is safe for all. Urge the chief of CPS to keep Chicago’s high schools open and invest in keeping students off the streets.
Dear Barbara Byrd-Bennett,
High school students on Chicago’s south and west sides already have to fear gang violence in their neighborhoods on a daily basis. Closing underused schools in these areas won’t solve Chicago’s educational crisis; it’ll only make it more dangerous for teenagers to walk to school.
Chicago’s homicide rate in 2012 was the highest the city had seen in years. It surpassed even New York’s murder rate, despite the fact that New York’s population is three times that of Chicago. As gang violence rages across Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, investment, not austerity, is the answer to keeping kids safe. I urge you to focus on lowering the dropout rate in high schools across the city–and to keep under-enrolled schools open for the students who depend on safe walks to schools close to home.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: MrSilva via Wikipedia