Kindergartners have been betrayed by Chicago Public Schools.
Five-year-olds have been robbed of getting into schools because families with more money or with ties to principals had the clout to leapfrog waiting lists, according to a report released this week by the CPS inspector general.
We’ve known for some time that some parents try to game the system to get their kids in coveted selective-enrollment schools. In the case of kindergartners being shut out, it’s principals who haven’t played by rules. According to the report, some don’t know the rules. Many created their own screening process, oblivious to the injustices they brought about.
It falls on new schools CEO Janice Jackson to remedy this by plugging loopholes principals are exploiting and providing better training and monitoring. Some steps already are being taken, but we urge Jackson to implement all 10 of the recommendations made by Inspector General Nicholas Schuler to stop the flood of inequities.
Schuler’s report said one principal described an unwritten agreement with former schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to allow kids who had paid pre-kindergarten tuition to enroll — even though they lived out of established boundaries.
Another principal made room for her own four kids, a niece, a nephew and three kids of school staff members to be admitted into kindergarten even though the school was at capacity.
Some principals screened kids to choose those likely to have good attendance records.
These were some of the more egregious cases, but the problem is widespread, especially among neighborhood schools, the report said. More than 18,000 elementary-school admissions were audited, and about 6,900 failed.
“It’s the cherry picking, the vetting by principals concerned about attendance or grades — those are the things that really question whether these are public schools, whether there’s an equal playing field that’s open to everybody,” Schuler told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Already, families distrust the district because of school closings and questionable downsizing of services for special education students under former CEO Forrest Claypool.
It shouldn’t be so tough to treat kindergartners right.