Don't leave Smyth School out of the fix for University Village
Two sides, one coin
08/25/2010 10:00 PM
The issues surrounding parental and neighborhood school choice complaints in the 2nd and 25th Wards are complex and not exactly new. As middle to upper income families moved into University Village they outpaced neighborhood access to two magnet schools offering the quality of education desired.
Now, college educated parents want access to strong educational programs at good schools and they would like it to happen within walking distance in their new urban setting. Instead, they have before them one choice of a bottom performing school that is overwhelmingly African American and poor.
Based on the power that goes along with high income and property tax brackets of the University Village, parents have gained traction with Chicago Public Schools and their ward leaders. Along the way they’ve asked for a new neighborhood school and or an expanded Andrew Jackson magnet program to be moved into the nearby and empty Jefferson school. Conversation out of the village does not include calls for John M. Smyth Elementary to be fixed and lifted up to allow children there, just blocks away, the same kind of chance sought for their students.
Many threaten a semi-return to the “white flight” seen in the 1980’s over little more than public school choice. It’s in that threat that their power lies.
To their credit, city and CPS leaders say they seek inclusion of Smyth in whatever plans are developed to improve the educational outlook for families in the village and its growing community. One such idea increases neighborhood access to expanded magnet schools while at the same time placing a gifted program at Smyth in an effort to draw students from a wide variety of social and economic backgrounds and lift the school over time.
As leaders go forward, whatever solution is considered, we believe they must keep Smyth in the picture and attempt to solve the educational problems within the poor school’s ranks while seeking, for those students, access to the same education currently being called for by the loudest parents of the University Village area at large.