According to a Chicago Reporter analysis published Dec. 19, Chicago Public Schools has lost more than 52,000 African American students and is on pace to become majority Latino. 

Many of those students are going to predominantly poor, black school districts in the south suburbs and northwest Indiana, the Chicago Reporter shows. In the last eight years, about one-third of the roughly 15,000 students who left predominantly poor and black Chicago public schools enrolled in predominantly poor and black schools elsewhere.

But some of them are ending up in relatively well-off Oak Park. Between 2009 and 2017, 119 CPS students from majority low-income, African American schools enrolled in Oak Park District 97 — enough to rank 39th among the top 50 districts in the state that are receiving those former CPS students.  

The exodus from Chicago to the suburbs and places in neighboring Indiana was exacerbated in 2013, when Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Board of Education opted to close 50 public schools on the South and West sides in order to close a budget gap. 

Elizabeth Todd-Breland, an African American history instructor at the University of Illinois Chicago, told the Chicago Reporter that residents in those predominantly poor, predominantly African American neighborhoods are suffering from a “menu of disinvestment.” 

“The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that’s OK,” she said. 

During a phone interview on Tuesday, Dr. Janice K. Jackson, the current interim CPS CEO who is expected to become appointed to that position permanently later this month, said that the district noticed the trend of students leaving CPS well before the Chicago Reporter article was published in December.

“I approach it from the standpoint of an educator,” said Jackson, a former CPS teacher and building principal. “We know that people transition for a number of reasons, but if we created high quality options, people will be less likely to transition. You can build a great community around the school and part of my role is to make sure there are good opportunities for students so people won’t want to leave CPS or Chicago.” 

Chris Jasculca, District 97’s communications director, said in an email statement that the district has “not seen a significant influx of CPS students during the past few years. Whatever increase in enrollment we have experienced from children transferring from Chicago has been factored into our overall plans and projections for class sections, staffing, etc.”


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