Mayor Rahm Emanuel barely caused a ripple of reaction two years ago when he announced Chicago Public School graduates would be given a leg up when applying for city jobs.

But now that the city is preparing to take applications for firefighters for the first time in a decade, Emanuel’s “CPS preference” policy is sparking an outcry from some city residents who say it discriminates against graduates of Catholic and other private schools.

Several elected officials from the city’s Northwest and Southwest sides tell me the issue has heated up in the last two weeks after the city posted its job announcement for the forthcoming firefighters exam.

“People have been really upset,” said Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th), a firefighter whose Northwest Side ward has historically been home to many city workers.

Sposato said lifelong residents of the city are asking him why they are being penalized for exercising their religious beliefs by sending their children to Catholic schools.

Of course, there’s a little more to it than that, with the Chicago Public Schools being overwhelmingly composed of minority students and with the Fire Department being a city agency where minorities have traditionally had difficulty getting hired.

Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) said those who are complaining “have been at an advantage for more than 100 years” in getting into the Fire Department, which he called “the whitest department in the city of Chicago.”

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