Dear School Board Members; (email: email@example.com )
Please do not ruin your successful magnet programs by changing to a straight lottery enrollment system. My children are already in our chosen CPS magnet programs, so your decision will not directly effect my family. However, I do think the introduction of the lottery could result in young families leaving the City.
Seven years ago we were facing this decision of which school would be best for our oldest son. Our neighborhood school was Washington Park Elementary, a struggling school that was rumoured to be scheduled for closure. We considered private schools like Mercy Montessori but we could not afford them. It seemed to us that our options were either a CPS magnet program, or move out of the City. We visited several of the CPS magnet programs and we were completely thrilled with what we saw at each of them. In the end we decided the closest magnet program, Fairview was best for us and our son.
At that time we did not have to wait in line, but merely took a tour and then added our names to a waiting list a year before school would start for our child. The system was simple and painless. Also as you know, at that time, the school used the Tauber index to admit children partially based on race and gender. This system worked well for us as it kept the diversity of the student population, yet required some commitment by the parents to think ahead and at least visit the school and learn about it before applying. However, as you well know, because of court decisions, CPS's use of the Tauber Index's use was ended in 2007.
At about the same time the racial quotas were removed, CPS told Fairview administration to end the waiting list method of enrollment and made them go to the first-come first-serve method which resulted in a 24 hour camp out the first year. This has now grown into several nights of camping.
Now, I don't like the idea of making parents camp out, but the only worse enrollment method would be a straight lottery. The parents must keep some control. They cannot be left to the pure chance of a random drawing. If I can think back to when I was a younger parent, the one thing that kept us here, was the knowledge that we had the power to choose. We could do things like visit early and talk with the principal so we would have a reasonable chance of getting the school that fit our particular child's needs. The fact that we had these choices made us strong supporters of CPS.
If the Board insist on moving to a lottery system, then please at least keep the requirement that the parents physically visit and learn about the school before they are qualified to enter the lottery. Also it is only common sense that siblings continue to have enrollment priority. To make parents endure a lottery for every child would surely be demoralizing not to mention that the results could be a transportation disaster with kids from one family attending several elementary schools.
Remember that parents know what is best for their child. If you keep as much power in their hands you will end up with a much stronger school district.
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