Mayor announces proposal for CPS High School students to earn diploma

Staff Writer

First-year students could be responsible for solidifying their plans after high school under a new plan proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Emanuel today, Wednesday, April 5, introduced the proposal that will require Chicago Public School (CPS) students to have concrete post-secondary plans in hand to graduate.

“High school graduation is a milestone, not a destination,” Emanuel said in a written statement. “The City of Chicago is proud that CPS students are making record academic gains from reading and math achievement to high school graduation and college enrollment. Ensuring every student has a plan for success after high school is the right thing to do for our students’ futures, and the right thing to do for Chicago’s future.”

The plan called “Learn. Plan. Succeed.” was launched to ensure that every CPS student has considered options for their lives after high school.

The proposal is an extension of Emanuel’s investment in postsecondary preparation, last year he made public a goal to ensure that 50 percent of CPS students graduate with at least one college or career credential.

“Learn. Plan. Succeed.” is an approach designed to steer students on a path to success in the next steps of their education, according to the news release.

Under the proposed plan, in order to graduate students would have to receive a college acceptance letter, military or enlistment letter, job program acceptance letter, acceptance into a trades pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship, acceptance into a “gap-year” program or a current job/job offer letter.

If approved, the plan would apply to current freshmen that plan to graduate from high school in 2020.

Tina Grant is the mother of two children that attend Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., she believes the proposed plan is not fair to children who are unsure of what they want to do once leaving high school.

“You are making a huge decision for a 14-year-old kid,” Grant said. “You don’t know what you want to do at 18.”

Jitu Brown, national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance, said the proposal is misguided and ignores the larger problem facing the district, which is inequity in resources and a lack of opportunities for children who are being mistreated based on their race and zip code, Brown said.

“Will that force some young people to start to really think about their future in that position yes, but we lose so many before then [before high school],” Brown said. “Mayor Rahm Emanuel has to have the courage to stand up to say that we have a blind spot in regard to racism and racial inequity in Chicago. We cannot sleep if a child is denied opportunity because of the color of their skin and where they live,” Brown said.

Brown said that the mayor simply does not get it and that the proposal does not get to the bottom of the issues facing the district.

To be implemented, the plan would have to be approved by the Board of Education. If approved, CPS would become the first large urban school district in the nation to require students to develop post-secondary plans to receive a High School diploma.

The board will consider the proposal at its next meeting, which takes place at 10:30 a.m., April 26, at the CPS Loop Office 42 W. Madison St., Garden Level.