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Marching against gentrification, Pell grants for dual enrollment, being black at elite high schools, principals’ group election

Hundreds marched on Tuesday to protest gentrification in Logan Square along the 606 trail, which they say is contributing to declines in neighborhood school enrollment. "I'm a parent against displacement," reads a sign help by by Sofia Mu?niz, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years.

Michelle Kanaar

Marching the 606 against gentrification. On the same day CPS told principals to plan for 39-percent cuts to their budgets, hundreds of activists, families, educators and aldermen marched down the 606 Trail to protest gentrification in Logan Square, saying it is driving out working-class families and hurting neighborhood schools.

The march, organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, was also intended to promote the group’s proposed ordinances to keep families from being displaced. Marchers made their way along a western segment of the elevated 606 at 5:30 p.m., rush hour for biking commuters and joggers.

Lowell special education teacher Oscar Ortiz said gentrification starts a “domino effect” that weakens neighborhood schools, with families pushed out by rising rent prices usually replaced by young, childless couples or wealthier families who don’t send their kids to CPS. Fewer students means fewer dollars, since funding is mostly tied to enrollment.

Parents and teachers fear that budget cuts will lead to a further enrollment decline, even among families who prefer neighborhood schools’ bilingual programs and strong community ties. “Families that can will move their kids out of CPS,” said Jerry Skinner, a veteran teacher at Kelvyn Park High School, where enrollment has fallen by almost 1,000 students over the past decade. “The students who remain will be those with the highest needs. And they deserve good teachers, too.”

Pell grants for high schoolers. The U.S. Department of Education has announced a pilot program to provide federal Pell grants to 10,000 high school students who are taking dual enrollment courses at 44 colleges in selected states.

None of the 44 colleges are in Chicago, but three are in downstate Illinois: Carl Sandburg, Illinois Central and Southwestern Illinois. The vast majority of the 44 schools are community colleges.

“Innovation is an important underpinning in our efforts to expand college access and increase college completion for our nation’s students,” said U.S. Under-Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell in the press release fact-sheet.

Research has shown that students in early college and dual enrollment programs have a better chance of eventually earning a degree. Students earn college credit while in high school, helping them save money and get a jump-start on post-secondary credits. Pell grant eligibility lasts for only six years of full-time education. An education department officials told WBEZ that it’s unlikely students will run out of eligibility before they earn a degree.

Being black at elite schools. Black students at Boston Latin School (BLS), an elite magnet school with a competitive reputation, are speaking out against the racism they regularly face and the administration’s inaction to address it.

The situation has sparked investigations from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston and dialogues across the city about racism on high school campuses. A social media campaign called #BlackAtBLS was launched with a YouTube video in which two black student leaders said they often saw classmates posting racial slurs on social media and had their intelligence questioned because of their race.

At Chicago’s Walter Payton College Prep, one of the best public high schools in the country, some students say they have experienced similar incidents of racism, To try and make Payton a more inclusive place for students of color, the school hired a director of student engagement and formed a club for minority students — which, for some students, is not enough.

“There shouldn’t need to be a club so students feel safe [but instead] classroom environments where they feel safe” Payton senior Matthew Mata said in a story in the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, students of color at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago held a silent protest to call for administration action against racism on campus. Using the hashtag #beingPOCatignatius, students posted tweets about their experiences, such as “Remember when my friend was portrayed as the stereotypical 'angry black woman' any time she vocalized her opinion on ANYTHING?”

The school announced last week that it would be meeting with students to address the issues.

Feds set policy on transgender students. A federal directive issued last week stated that all schools receiving financial assistance must allow transgender students access to the locker and bathrooms that match their gender identity.

The directive came soon after CPS announced its new guidelines for transgender students and adult staff and volunteers, which called for the same access. Many districts in Chicago suburbs state that they have already allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity and also provide the option of “gender neutral” bathrooms.

Still, there has been push-back against these ideas. Northwest suburban Palatine parents recently sued their school district after it decided to allow a transgender student to change in the girls’ locker room late last year.

And outside of Illinois, the defiance against the federal directive has been strong, especially in conservative Southern states. Should schools in these areas refuse to follow the guidelines set forth, they risk losing money in federal financial assistance. Texas Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the state would rather lose its billions of dollars in aid than enforce the new guidelines, according to the New York Times.

More evidence of worsening segregation. A report released this week by the federal Government Accountability Office confirmed once again that residential socioeconomic and racial segregation leads to segregated — and unequal — public schools. Hispanic students, the report found, often face “triple segregation” by race, class and language.

According to the report, racial and socioeconomic isolation in public schools increased by 7 percent, from 9 up to 16 percent, between the 2000-01 and 2013-14 school years.

“The findings of this report are deeply disturbing, but come as no surprise,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a press release. “We know that these changes in racial and socioeconomic isolation are closely associated with unequal access to educational resources and opportunities, as well as racially disproportionate school discipline practices.”

Just over 45 percent of CPS students are Hispanic. Around 17 percent of all CPS students are bilingual, and the vast majority come from low-income families.

Last notes... The votes for the next Chicago Principal and Administrator Association president will be counted this morning at the organization’s headquarters. Results will be out either late tonight or early Friday. The race for president is between Troy LaRaviere, who was controversially reassigned from his post as Blaine Elementary last month, and current CPAA VIce President Kenneth Hunter, who was arrested on a misdemeanor charge last week for allegedly harassing a woman via text.

Posted in Lathrop, News, Education, 606 Bloomingdale Trail, Affordable Housing