Revising residency at OPRF

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If you believe that OPRF should be renamed Oak Park and River Forest + Austin High School, based on having seen some black kids at the Ridgeland stop of the Green Line el, then you will presume that the current discussion of new residency procedures at the school are an admission that we've been paying to educate half the West Side — or from the River Forest geography is it half of Maywood?

More likely the coming procedural changes at OPRF are the result of having responsibility for monitoring residency shift from an assistant principal to the intense gaze of Cheryl Witham, the school's CFO, and the IT guy Mike Carioscio.

The school board has given an initial nod to their plan to shift the residency process from the school chasing those suspected of border jumping in a costly cat-and-mouse game, to forcing all parents to prove their kids belong in the school. Under the new plan, homeowners would join renters in proactively providing proof of residency before the school year begins. Parents who rent apartments would be required to show a current lease at the start of the school year rather than having the school record when a lease might be expiring and tracking down parents at that point.

The proposed change is similar to a process adopted in Oak Park School District 97 schools a few years ago. There it has worked smoothly and has been perceived as fair and efficient.

We expect the same will be true of the system adopted at OPRF in the near future.

Good news for local taxpayers. Not so good for the el watchers.

Reader Comments

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Dylan Bellisle from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 10:29 AM

Real List, It seems that you are unaware of the situation many families are in that live in Austin/Maywood. Many of these families are already "making tough choices and sacrifices" to simply survive. Put decent food on the table and have decent clothing... the basics. Just check out the unemployment rate in the black community. The rate of those looking for work is about twice as high as it is for whites.

Dylan Bellisle from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 10:25 AM

Uncommon Sense, Firstly, just as business owners and corporations do.... if you are unsatisfied with the amount of taxes you pay you can relocate to somewhere better. OR, get involved in the politics and advocate for a change. In terms of school choice. Firstly, most people are not one issue voters. Secondly, school choice is not a good policy because it undermines public schools. If a Conservative ran and advocated for the abolition or reduction of property tax and the introduction of a state-wide income tax to pay for education I would go for that. Such a policy could equal the playing field in terms of funding.

OPRF Parent  

Posted: December 8th, 2012 12:32 PM

I would guess that the number of students attending OPRF who do not live in either village is relatively small. People equate riding a bus or el with meaning a student (well, those of color anyway) lives out of district. That just isn't the case. I hope OPRF follows up with a report of how many students were found to be living out of district after this process.

Resident taxpayer   

Posted: December 7th, 2012 11:00 PM

Sheesh, maybe YOU should pay for the cost of each and every student that doesn't live in Oak Park... being that you are so "progressive", as you rhetoric suggested. Rather than being condescending to hard working, tax paying residents of Oak Park, YOU should put your money where your mouth is. After all, you live in Oak Park, so you must be rich and privileged, right? I'll be expecting an article about the fat check you write to help all these kids you suggest need help.

janice rubin from oak park   

Posted: December 7th, 2012 9:53 PM

When I taught in Forest Park,students would be on the el , riding into the city with the teachers...The problem is more than funding- schools are graded on test scores, students who come from poor performing schools in Chicago do not have the foundation to do well on standardized testing,which affects everyone and makes the "much aligned gap" much worse.

Violet Aura  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 5:50 PM

Huh? What an oddly-worded article. And I notice that there is no name in the by-line. Did all of you guys at WJ write this brilliant blurb together? And it's not just Black kids, by the way. Take the 311 Pace bus and see if any teenybopper of the Black and Hispanic persuasion gets off past Roosevelt. I saw it myself once!

Real List  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 4:02 PM

Sheesh - Austin/Maywood folks do not have the right to attend OPRF any more than OPRF kids have the right to attend New Trier or Hinsdale Central. The rules are pretty straight-forward. If a "better" HS is the priority, then it is up to the family to make the tough choices and sacrifices to obtain this goal per the rules in place. Freedom of choice...

Uncommon sense  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 3:52 PM

Sheesh, I could careless about their parent's motivation when I am writing huge property tax bill checks every year to support the school. Maybe instead of continuing to vote for Democrats who don't want school choice, they should consider the Republicans so they can have some legitimate school options for their kids.

Sheesh from Oak Park  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 3:20 PM

I love all the "progressive" Richie Rich's getting all uptight about a few black kids from Austin going to their elite public school. Ever think that maybe these parents care enough about their kids that they want them to get a decent education, but they can't afford private school and don't want their kids in the horrible Austin schools? Sorry that they're bringing your test scores down, but they'd live in Oak Park too if they could afford it.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 2:45 PM

Not sure what is so hard about this. You either live in Oak Park or you don't - verify a lease, property tax bill, etc. We pay a ton in property taxes to support the schools and the least we can expect is that the village ensures our dollars and resources are not being wasted on non-residents.

Dylan Bellisle from Forest Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 7th, 2012 1:56 PM

Done, Its not that hard. You can make it transparent and fair. Reduce or eliminate property taxes and introduce a higher and progressive income tax that will pay directly for education. Create a formula based on need per student and type of student (ie. students with different disabilities need more assistance) along with other needs and pay schools based on that. Free-Market folks would love that because it would encourage schools to be more competitive by getting more students.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 1:37 PM

Dylan - well said. But would anyone want Springfield to handle who gets what in terms of school funding. Look how well they have handled other financial issues. I'm all for a better idea, but Springfield isn't an asset.

Dylan Bellisle  

Posted: December 5th, 2012 1:19 PM

Couple of concerns. How does one prove that the adult that comes with them to the school is who they are living with? Many young people have different last names than their parents. Many young people live with extended family members. Many young people are living in homes doubled up with other families, and extended family. And yes, there are some homeless young people as well. Is there a fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory process for these students? Do they have to jump through 10 extra hoops to prove their residency? Or is it as simple as getting a notarized letter? I would also hope that out of this, teachers, administrators, the board, and others will advocate for better, fairer, and more equitable school funding. If school funding wasn't tied to property taxes, and if politically connected districts and schools didn't get better programs, deals, etc. then parents and families could send their children to the nearby schools in their neighborhoods without fear of violence and the fact that the schools are under-funded and neglected.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 13th, 2012 10:58 AM

It has worked smoothly & perceived as fair & efficient. Great, I'm all for the new process. The same exact process should also be used in order for one to be able to vote....or am I guilty of trying to disenfranchise a particular voting bloc???

Julie from Oak Park  

Posted: November 9th, 2012 7:26 PM

Most school districts in suburban Cook and DuPage counties verify residency; it's a standard practice.

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