CPS Board Officials Express ‘Grave Concerns’ About Selective Enrollment Bill in Springfield

(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)(Michael Izquierdo / WTTW News)

Chicago education officials have expressed “grave concerns” about legislation in Springfield they believe could hamper Chicago Public Schools’ ability to make admissions decisions at selective enrollment schools.

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Chicago Board of Education Vice President Elizabeth Todd-Breland on Wednesday spoke out against a bill making its way through the state legislature that she believes would negatively impact students across the city.

The measure would put a moratorium on the closure of selective enrollment schools and prevent CPS from altering its standards for admission to those schools until 2027 when a fully elected school board in Chicago is in place.

Todd-Breland reiterated Wednesday that officials have “no plans” to close selective enrollment schools and claimed the legislation is instead a “proposed remedy to a problem that actually does not exist.”

“Without the ability to re-examine selective admissions and attendance policies, selective schools may become more and more racially and economically segregated and create barriers to access for the majority of CPS students,” Todd-Breland said during the board’s agenda review meeting.

Todd-Breland led Wednesday’s meeting as board President Jianan Shi was in Springfield to share similar remarks about the bill in testimony before state legislators.

The current school board is comprised of seven members, all appointed by Mayor Brandon Johnson. Under a newly enacted state law, voters will elect 10 members this November while Johnson will appoint 10 more members of his choosing, as well as the board president.

That leaves the majority of the board under mayoral control until 2027, when the city would move to a fully elected school board.

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Croke previously told WTTW News that she crafted the legislation because her constituents are concerned about how a majority-appointed board will handle selective enrollment options after the board passed a five-year vision that Shi described as a “transformational plan that shifts away from a model that emphasizes school choice to one that elevates our neighborhood schools to ensure each and every student has access to a high-quality educational experience.”

Croke last month said that resolution has stoked fears among some CPS families whose children attend, or want to attend, those schools, and that parents she talked to don’t believe the district’s assurances that these schools won’t be closed.

Todd-Breland has stressed that there’s no truth to that notion, and if the legislation is approved, it would limit the board’s ability to make policy changes.

For instance, she said, the percentage of Black students attending selective enrollment schools has declined dramatically in recent years. She cited Walter Payton College Prep, where Black enrollment has fallen from 34% in 2021 down to 9% currently. And low-income students, who make up 70% of the district’s total population, account for between 30-40% of selective enrollment students.

“In effect, this bill would codify racial and socioeconomic inequities in our most selective schools,” Todd-Breland said.

Beyond selective enrollment schools, Todd-Breland said the legislation would also hamstring the board’s ability to address enrollment management, overcrowding relief and facilities issues at schools of all types across Chicago.

CPS is facing a nearly $400 million deficit, and if officials don’t have the ability to approve a balanced budget, Todd-Breland said, this bill could have an “unintended consequence” of forcing the district to “balance our budget on the backs of our neighborhood schools.”

“I look forward to working with our partners in Springfield collaboratively to find solutions that help advance a high-quality education for all of our schools,” Todd-Breland said.

Amanda Vinicky contributed to this report.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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