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Editorial: Put stop to fraud in selective CPS admissions

Nicholas J. Schuler, Inspector general for the Chicago Public Schools | Brian Jackson/ For the Chicago Sun-Times

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People who follow the rules deserve fair treatment.

Someone should tell that to Chicago Public Schools, which seems to be having trouble with the concept. According to an annual report by the Office of the Inspector General for the Chicago Board of Education, “numerous” families have cheated their kids’ way into CPS’ selective-enrollment high schools by submitting phony addresses.

This is not a time for CPS to look the other way, which it has pretty much been doing. In fact, it appears the uncovered phony addresses are just the tip of the iceberg. CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler says the fraud was discovered through a mere sampling and that he suspects it is more widespread.

Does CPS get how serious this is? The fastest way to destroy trust in our schools among people who have little clout, money or power is to allow people to scam the system to get their kids into the most desirable schools.


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As Schuler recommended, sanctions should be strong and swift. And CPS should launch an investigation to nail down the scope of the problem. This has to stop.

Getting into a selective-enrollment Chicago high school is a big deal. Even parents of toddlers focus on it, trading tips while watching over their kids in neighborhood play lots. More than 16,000 students applied last year for 3,200 seats at 11 high schools. Those applicants deserve a fair shake, not to be squeezed out by someone who falsifies forms.

The cheating goes on in two ways. Some families of students who live in the city falsely claim to live in disadvantaged neighborhoods that get an extra boost at selective-enrollment schools to provide diversity. Others actually live outside the city — in Des Plaines, Libertyville, Lincolnwood, Elmwood Park, South Holland or other suburbs. If the idea of selective-enrollment schools is partly to retain and attract middle-class families to the city, why is CPS letting suburban students — whose families pay no property taxes to CPS — take those slots?

How do you think Chicago and CPS employees — who are required to live in the city and can’t send their kids to suburban schools — feel about suburban students taking highly sought CPS slots?

Moreover, there’s a ripple effect. If legit applicants are denied their first choice, they’ll be shunted to their second, which means other students are displaced down the line until finally kids don’t get their fifth choice.

And for every kid who sneaks in fraudulently, hundreds who were shut out will believe it was their spot that was taken. That’s a lot of political ill-will CPS doesn’t need.

Even when CPS does catch students who used bogus addresses and forces them to de-enroll, those students often are allowed to transfer back in a semester or so later. That doesn’t help students who should have been admitted, but weren’t. The seat still has gone to someone who didn’t deserve it.

CPS Inspector General Nicholas Schuler told the Sun-Times he thinks admissions based on phony addresses are a “significant problem.”

We’d call that an understatement. CPS had better come up with some significant deterrents — fast.

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