The city of Chicago has announced plans to build a new selective enrollment high school which will be named in honor of President Barack Obama.
Barack Obama College Preparatory High School will be located just west of the ritzy Gold Coast neighborhood on what is now Chicago Park District property, basically a stone’s throw from the remains of the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The $60 million top-tier high school, slated to open in the fall of 2017, will offer 300 additional freshman seats. It’s welcome news for students in competition for the few coveted spots in the Second City’s selective enrollment high schools. About 70 percent of each incoming class will be chosen through the selective enrollment process. The remaining 30 percent will be residents of the fast-gentrifying surrounding neighborhood.
As part of the announcement trumpeting the new school, Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted Chicago’s improved graduating rate. A University of Chicago study suggests that the city’s freshmen-on-track graduation rate has increased from just 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent today.
Emanuel also mentioned that Obama knows about the new school to be emblazoned with his namesake “and he’s excited about it.”
Critics have argued that Obama College Prep’s location – convenient to yuppie white parents and just a few blocks from the still-gleaming Walter Payton College Prep – is a slap in the face to poor residents on the South and West sides of the city.
“He’s clearly trying to satisfy a certain demographic by putting in another selective enrollment school right near another one,” Wendy Katten, a member of parent group Raise Your Hand, told the Tribune. “This is only going to impact a small percentage of students. It’s not going to address a citywide need for strong neighborhood high schools.”
On the other hand, news of Obama High comes on the heels of a vote by the Chicago Public Schools to implement its ambitious “turnaround” model for three low-performing elementary schools in poor neighborhoods. The drastic process involves the sacking of every teacher and staffer at each of the schools. (RELATED: Chicago Teachers Union to Mayor Rahm: Improving failed schools full of black kids is RACIST)
Though Mayor Emanuel may be jubilant today, The Daily Caller notes that public schools named after President Obama have a sketchy track record.
In June, for example, a seventh-grade boy was allegedly raped by another male student during gym class at Barack Obama Global Preparation Academy in Los Angeles. (RELATED: Seventh-grade boy allegedly raped during gym class at Barack Obama Prep)
The 13-year-old boy, identified only as Julian, was a special-needs student with the mental capacity of a six-to-eight year old. His alleged attacker, an unidentified eighth-grade boy, allegedly lured Julian behind a set of bleachers during gym class and sexually assaulted him.