Chicago Schools Audit Displays Need for Expanded School Choice

Published February 12, 2016

The results of an audit by the Office of the Inspector General for the Chicago Board of Education released on January 1 revealed evidence of hundreds of Chicago suburban parents falsifying address and residency documentation in order to help their children qualify for Chicago’s selective enrollment program.

The selective enrollment program, first established by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1997 and managed by Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) Office of Access and Enrollment, creates a process to identify at-risk children and transfer them to high-quality charter schools. It offers children in low-income households a greater opportunity to succeed educationally than what is available in their local government-operated school.

Doing Whatever It Takes

Don Soifer, executive vice president of the Lexington Institute, says the report’s revelations prove parents will do whatever it takes to obtain better educational opportunities for their children.

“These cases are a pretty clear example that families are not satisfied with the choices currently available to them, and [it shows] they feel their assigned public high schools are not sufficiently meeting their educational needs,” Soifer said. “It’s a shame the Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general needs to dedicate resources to surveillance, trailing of students, and investigations when what’s clearly needed are more quality seats available in schools students would want to attend.”

Power to the Parents

Chicago-area parents should be able to choose the school that best suits their children’s needs, says Matt Frendewey, national communications director for the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit organization whose mission is “[improving] our nation’s K–12 education by advancing systemic and sustainable public policy that empowers parents, particularly those in low-income families.”

“Most kids in CPS are lost in public school with few options, yet CPS would rather criminalize a parent than recognize the system is broken and look at the cause,” Frendewey said. “Unfortunately, [only] parents who have means have school choice. Those that don’t, have to cheat, rely on luck, or have no choice. Any child should be able to go wherever is best for them.”

Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Luther, Oklahoma.