Chicago Requires Students to Reveal Post-Grad Plans

Published September 4, 2017

The “Learn. Plan. Succeed” system will require graduating students to show evidence of military enlistment, acceptance to college, a gap-year program, a job, or a trade apprenticeship. The Chicago Board of Education approved the plan, originally proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in May 2017, and it will first apply to the graduating class of 2020.

“As a parent, I would never leave it to chance that my kids have a plan post-high school, and as mayor I refuse the notion that the future of any child in this city should be treated any differently,” Emanuel said during an event in June.

‘Window Dressing’

Chris Lentino, manager of Chicago outreach for the Illinois Policy Institute, says the graduation mandate is an attempt to mask Chicago’s educational failures.

“It’s little more than window dressing,” Lentino said. “What it’s doing is taking away the focus from CPS’ main charge, which is to teach kids and prepare them for graduation.”

Lentino said CPS should “focus on getting the kids ready first,” instead of simply implementing a top-down requirement to submit a post-graduation plan.

Who’s the Boss?

Lentino says the school system is overstepping its authority.

“It’s not the place of government to tell anyone, let alone a kid, that they need to have a plan in place,” Lentino said. “It’s not the role of government to play parent.”

Aaron Garth Smith, an education policy analyst at Reason Foundation, said the CPS plan is an “expensive gimmick.”

“In a world of scarce resources, you’re forced to make tradeoffs with both time and money, and every dollar that’s spent fulfilling a bureaucratic requirement is a dollar not spent in the classroom,” Smith said.

Taking a Big Shortcut

Smith says requirements similar to Chicago’s have worked elsewhere, such as at Houston Texas’ YES Prep Public Schools, a network of open-enrollment public charter schools, but with two important differences.

“First, YES is a school of choice—so families can decide whether this requirement is right for them before enrolling,” Smith said. “And importantly, YES has spent two decades building a culture around postsecondary readiness that’s imbedded in everything they do. CPS is trying to mandate this type of culture rather than build it from the ground up.”

‘Anti-Parent Mentality’

Smith says this policy is another instance of governments grabbing excessive authority over children.

“I think this ties in with a broader anti-parent mentality in public education, which not only doesn’t trust families to make decisions about what school to attend but also thinks they’re incapable of navigating life decisions,” Smith said. “Are Chicago’s politicians really the best role models for personal responsibility and planning for long-term success? The city’s worsening pension crisis says otherwise.”

Harry Painter ([email protected]) writes from Brooklyn, New York.