Want your diploma? You better be prepared to show proof of your post-graduation plans.
At least, that’ll be the case beginning with the class of 2020, for the students who are now sophomores, enrolled in Chicago Public Schools.
The new requirement would accept the following as “proof of plans”: a letter of acceptance to college, an offer of employment, enrollment in the military, or acceptance into a trade program or gap-year program.
Sounds smart, right?
Well, it depends. The situation is a little trickier than it sounds, critics say.
The initiative seems motivational. But for some teens, especially ones who attend Chicago Public Schools, it’s already challenging enough to receive a diploma. Now school officials could possibly withhold it due to a lack of “acceptable” plans?
The website The Root breaks down some of the underlying issues involved with Mayor Rham Emanuel’s education plan.
"First of all, college is not for everyone. There are a great many people who lead happy and successful lives without a college degree. What about the kids who want to travel or find themselves while doing volunteer work overseas or some such?
Next, a requirement like this could disproportionately affect black and brown students in a negative way. For a lot of them, going to college is cost-prohibitive. Even applying to college can be cost-prohibitive; college applications aren’t cheap.
So, for the students who can’t afford either college or the application, the push is then to funnel them into service in the U.S. military, something that is already done at a disproportionate rate.
It seems to me that Emanuel is creating a system to funnel minority students and their families into student loan debt or, worse yet, a military career that they may not want."
The situation isn't as cut and dried as it might seem.
Furthermore, as the website Scary Mommy reported, the district is in financial straits. This education requirement "would call for far more high school counselors, some of whom already have caseloads of over 400 kids who they help with everything from school attendance to coping with street violence.”
Meaning, without the resources to pull this off, the measure might not be feasible.
There is one positive: All students with Chicago Public School are automatically accepted into the City Colleges of Chicago, which is the local community college system.
But still, as the news organization Mic points out, due to budget cuts and inadequate staffing, these institutions might not be able to accommodate the new measure.
Will the next two years serve as enough time for CPS’ high schools to adapt? It would seem as though Emanuel hopes so. In the meantime, he’s working with the district to raise $1 million from donors to help school counselors achieve the training they need to help make the program successful, according to Mic, which sourced the Chicago Tribune.
The measure was passed by the Board of Education in May. Emanuel first announced the plan, as part of Chicago’s Learn, Plan, Succeed initiative, in April. The district currently has about 381,000 students enrolled.