Court to weigh in on city schools' deseg efforts
When Anne Dasovic chose to send her 7-year-old son to Edison Elementary Regional Gifted Center, integration was on her mind.
of the reasons I picked that school was because it’s a diverse school,”
Dasovic says of the racial makeup of the pupils there. “I think it’s
important that kids are in schools that are representative of the city
and not in a segregated environment.”
But Dasovic is now worried
that the diversity she values at Edison may end. An upcoming judicial
hearing will decide the fate of Chicago’s public schools desegregation
efforts and may end the decree that makes them mandatory.
really concerned that if the consent decree is lifted, CPS will make no
attempt to try to have a diverse student body,” Dasovic says.
and other parents expressed their concerns Tuesday evening at a forum
held at Casa Central, 1335 N. California Ave., in Humboldt Park. The
event focused on a hearing called by U.S. District Court Judge Charles
Kocoras to decide whether CPS should be allowed to end its
court-ordered efforts to desegregate.
CPS entered into a
consent decree in 1980 after the U.S. Department of Justice threatened
to sue the system for failing to desegregate. The decree required CPS
to take steps to solve the problem, including ending student
assignments by race, providing equal access to transportation,
extra-curricular activities and facilities.
The decree also required the school district to form racially
balanced staffs and provide more resources to non-English speaking
children in the schools.
The upcoming hearing will determine
whether the city’s schools can now be declared a unitary system – one
that is no longer segregated by race. If that happens, the city
wouldn’t have to continue any measures to desegregate schools.
Valerie Johnson, a professor of political science at DePaul University
who spoke at the forum, says CPS is not even close to being
desegregated. Ending integration efforts would make the situation
worse, she says.
“I do not believe there will be a commitment to
racial equality in Chicago Public Schools without this consent decree,”
Johnson says. “Particularly considering the fact that this commitment
has been a half hearted effort.”
On Tuesday, she quoted a 2001
study that said 70 percent of African American students in the United
States attend predominately minority schools. A third of those students
attend schools where minority enrollment is 90 to 100 percent,
according to the study.
Ricardo Meza, the regional counsel for the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund, also spoke at Tuesday's event. He says
English language learners are not currently getting the resources they
need, and getting rid of the consent decree would make matters worse.
If the system was declared unified, Meza says that parents and
community members wouldn’t have any legal way to challenge segregation
or discriminatory practices in the city’s schools, he says.
“Once the decision is made, that will be it,” Meza says.
event was organized by Drummond Families Together, an organization of
parents from Drummond Montessori Magnet School in Wicker Park.
only 8 percent of CPS students are white, magnet schools have been a
big part of desegregation efforts. Currently, magnet schools try to
attain a racial balance of between 15 to 30 percent white and 65 to 85
percent minority students.
If the consent decree is ended,
Chicago’s 54 magnet schools could not use numerical goals or quotas for
race in their admission standards.
Sumi Cho, a Drummond parent and also a professor of law at DePaul University, says the diversity at magnet schools is important.
“It helps people understand who they are and interact with others in the world,” Cho says.
community members and legal experts will be able to voice their
objections to ending the decree at the hearing after filing a written
objection with the court.
The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m.
on Jan. 20 in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, 219 S.
Dearborn St. Written objections must be submitted by Dec. 1.
2004, Kocoras has held two hearings to potentially declare unitary
status. Enough objections were heard at both meetings to prevent that
Written objections should be addressed to Clerk of the Court, Attn: United States v. Board of Education.