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Updated Wednesday, April 5, 10:20 p.m. EST: Emily Bolton, Deputy Press Secretary of Academics for Chicago Public Schools emailed The Root to provide clarity on some of the questions raised about the Learn, Plan, Succeed initiative and the related graduation requirement introduced by Mayor Emanuel and CPS.

“The goal of Learn Plan Succeed is to have students start planning and thinking about their future so they can achieve their goals with the help of passionate counselors, staff, and educators,” Bolton said.

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Bolton provided clarity on a few key points:

  • Several non-college paths satisfy the requirement - including having a job or getting a job offer and taking a gap year (listed below). Waivers are available for extenuating circumstances.
  • All CPS students qualify for free tuition at City Colleges through a partnership
  • Since 86% of our students come from low-income families, they also qualify to get application fees for college waived
  • 60% of CPS students already provide a plan - the goal of Learn Plan Succeed is to have students start planning and thinking about their future so they can achieve their goals with the help of passionate counselors, staff, and educators

Under the proposed policy, the following concrete steps would meet the District’s ambitious proposed graduation requirement:

  • College acceptance letter
  • Military acceptance/enlistment letter
  • Acceptance at a job program (e.g. coding bootcamp)
  • Acceptance into a trades pre-apprenticeship/apprenticeship
  • Acceptance into a “gap-year” program
  • Current job/job offer letter

“For clarity, students are automatically accepted into City Colleges, and ALL students who fill out the paperwork for the Chicago Star Scholarship get free tuition, books, and class materials. This applies to all students regardless of financial need, including DREAMers,” Bolton said.

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Earlier:

In case you needed further proof that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel does not have the best interests of his constituents, young or old, in mind, he announced Wednesday that he wants to require Chicago public school students to have a letter of acceptance from a two- or four-year college, a branch of the military, or a trade program in order to graduate from high school.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Emanuel shared his idea while speaking on CBS This Morning, and framed it as a move to get kids thinking early about continuing their learning beyond high school, but he also said that it would be compulsory.

“You won’t be able to graduate … unless you show that letter of acceptance to any one of the four outlets we talked about: college, community college, armed services or a trade,” Emanuel said.

There is no law that requires high school students to enroll in postsecondary education or training in order to graduate, so it’s not exactly clear how the troubled Chicago Public School system would enforce such a rule.

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According to the Tribune, Emanuel, speaking along with CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson at a Wednesday-morning news conference, characterized the requirement as a way to focus children all over the city on their post-high-school plans.

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CPS already has graduation requirements that are above the state standards, and Emanuel and Jackson pointed out that as long as the district meets the state minimum graduation requirements, it is legal for them to add requirements on top of those.

Jackson pointed out that any student who graduates from a CPS school is automatically accepted into one of Chicago’s City Colleges, so simply earning their diploma fulfills the new requirement.

So, if that is the case, then why create the new requirement?

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“Just like you do with your children, college, post-high school, that is what’s expected,” Emanuel said. “If you change expectations, it’s not hard for kids to adapt.”

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The mayor’s office told the Tribune that the new program will start with the Class of 2020.

There are many problems with creating a rule like this, regardless of the way the graduation system is already set up to accept kids into City Colleges of Chicago.

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First of all, college is not for everyone. There are a great many people who lead happy and successful lives without a college degree. What about the kids who want to travel or find themselves while doing volunteer work overseas or some such?

Next, a requirement like this could disproportionately affect black and brown students in a negative way. For a lot of them, going to college is cost-prohibitive. Even applying to college can be cost-prohibitive; college applications aren’t cheap.

So, for the students who can’t afford either college or the application, the push is then to funnel them into service in the U.S. military, something that is already done at a disproportionate rate.

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It seems to me that Emanuel is creating a system to funnel minority students and their families into student loan debt or, worse yet, a military career that they may not want.

If students are already automatically admitted to the City College system, then creating this rule seems to be not only redundant but also aimed at targeting a specific portion of the population.

Listen, get your school system together first, Mayor Emanuel. Then we can talk about all this other shit.

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Read more at the Chicago Tribune.