CPS closes last electrical training program for students

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Chicago Public Schools said its closed its last electrical training program for lack of student interest but a South Side alderman is joining growing efforts to revive it.

Simeon Career Academy High School, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., has rallied in recent weeks for the program — at CPS budget hearings and at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Education, where Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) joined the chorus to save the electricity program.

“As a lawyer, I would like every kid to go to college and get a post secondary education,” he said. But as one who also believes in choices, I know that choice is not for everybody, and going forward and looking to see what the direction of what good paying jobs in the city and this country are, electricity is one of them,” he said.

Brookins asked the district, which has vowed to get every student college and career ready, to at least consider phasing out the program gradually for the sake of the current 56 participants instead of shutting it abruptly. Meanwhile, he said he’s approached the electrical workers union and some local construction companies to drum up interest in electricity among students.

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told the board that program was cut because of lack of enrollment and interest rather than lack of money.

Forty of the current incoming 9th graders chose to study electricity but only 18 of them would have enrolled because the others chose other majors as well, said Denise Little, chief officer of network support.

“As such, there was not enough student interest to justify maintaining the electricity program,” Little told the board. “Of the students enrolled in the program, only 4 or 5 percent have earned qualifying certifications.”

Board President David Vitale said he’d have the vocational education department work with the alderman.

Latisa Kindred, the electricity teacher who was laid off when the program was closed, said she had fewer dropouts in her Career and Technical Education classes.

“Electricity in CPS is the fourth program to close at Simeon in four years… first it was graphic design, then machine shop, then auto shop and now electricity,” Kindred said in a news release emailed by the Chicago Teachers Union. “They need to save CTE, because my students leave this program and find jobs, and that’s an alternative to what they face on the streets.”

CTU recording secretary Michael Brunson said that good jobs will stave off Chicago’s shootings, and asked the district to publicize its vocational programs instead of eliminating them. Thirteen were cut this year, he said.

“I’m asking you right now to consider the students, the community and their parents and what we need in this city right now to stop this violence. We need good-paying, well-paying jobs and an electrician is a well-paying job.

“Where are they going to go now? Where are they going to learn it?”

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