Rahm Emanuel Slammed by Chicago High School Students

Chicago's mayoral race front-runner claims the city's highest performing schools are charters. A group of students says he didn't do his homework.


Rahm Emanuel is in hot water over recent remarks dissing the city's public schools. According to the Chicago mayoral race front-runner, "When you take out North Side, and you take out Walter Payton, the seven best-performing high schools are all charters." Now a group of students—who also happen to be fans of one of his opponents, Miguel Del Valle—have responded to the inference that the city's 400,000 regular public school kids are low-performing. To protest, they did what thousands of young people do every day—they made a video and put it to YouTube.

In the video, three students from the North Side neighborhood of Rogers Park, Cristina Henriquez, Gerardo Aguilar, and Alexandra Alvarez, say that Emanuel didn't do his homework, and they say that he doesn't care about regular public schools. The students cite Chicago Tribune rankings that indicate the seven highest performing high schools in the city are actually regular public schools.

Walter Payton Prep—which Emanuel excludes—is the innovative math, science and language academy recently visited by Chinese President Hu Jintao, and it's a public high school. However it is, like many of the city's top high schools a "selective enrollment" campus. That means students have to apply for admission and are judged by their grades, test scores, an essay and an interview.

Where Emanuel has it right is his assertion that schools on the predominantly black South Side are not making the grade. Of the seven public high schools, only one, Gwendolyn Brooks Academy, is located south of downtown Chicago.

One question is whether the students decided to make the video on their own, or were they prodded by Del Valle's adult supporters. The video's YouTube page says it's a "grass-roots/guerilla campaign ad to 'tell it like it is' and support the best candidate to improve our neighborhood public schools." It also claims that the students are "the stars and script writers." But, given the infamously cutthroat nature of Chicago politics, that may or may not be true.

Whether or not adults stacked the deck, the video has good advice for Emanuel and the rest of the pack of mayoral candidates. As one of the students says, "You want a real school turnaround, invest in us."

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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