To my fellow parents,
You might have heard that Chicago Public Schools is experiencing a decrease in enrollment this year. Because of the budgeting process the district uses, many schools are also seeing a decline in funds that will make it difficult to recover.
At one neighborhood school in Hyde Park, Ray Elementary, the budget is being cut by about 5%, and enrollment in some grades is down by about two thirds. My kids attend Ray, and as an elected member of the Ray Local School Council and an advocate for public schools, I’m writing to those of you who live in the neighborhood and are considering options for your child’s schooling.
The public needs you. Public schools receive budgetary allotments per pupil, so removing children from the system deprives the local schools of public subsidy. The many private schools in our neighborhood further concentrate the resources of those with means to choose. The whole public system is missing out on more people who can advocate in ways that could benefit everyone.
This isn’t to say that Ray or any other neighborhood school needs to be saved. But when individual families opt out, it weakens the system, for instance by making it easier for others to opt out. I don’t think our public schools will get much better unless we also have a stronger political commitment to them, including a cultural shift in what we accept and expect of parents. What does it say about Chicago that none of our mayors since and including Richard J. Daley in 1955 have sent their children to CPS?
You and your kids also need the public. A public school is a place where a deeply democratic belief is expressed: that each person has a responsibility to contribute, and that we have a responsibility to develop each person to their fullest potential. I am grateful for the strong sense of mutual encouragement and uplift at Ray. Join CPS (for elementary school, not just for the elite high schools) as an opportunity to be part of this community and perhaps as an expression of your ethical and political commitments.
I readily acknowledge that CPS can be better, and my own choices are absolutely informed by my various identities. But I’m trying to live towards a kind of radical love from within the system, trying to be part of imagining what school could and should be for all of us. I invite you to join us on this journey. In fact, I need you. We all do. Please consider enrolling your kid in a Chicago Public School. Ray has an open house for Kindergarten on May 25 and is accepting enrollment applications right now.