Chicago, Illinois parents have finally had enough, and their latest actions speak volumes. The last straw, which was probably an addendum to the actual last straw, was a recent five-day teacher’s walkout staged by the all-powerful Chicago Teachers Union. Chicago parents are now making moves to ensure that their children receive the education they deserve and are looking to the heavenly skies for assistance.
Chicago parents have not only had this recent teacher strike to contend with, but they also had the 2019 Chicago Public Schools’ teacher strike, then the horribly delayed reopening of schools during the COVID pandemic, and with that, the unnecessarily long stretch of remote learning their children was forced into. Families had enough and phones in Catholic schools began to ring off their collective hooks.
“The public school system was already so unpredictable, and once we were in a pandemic, it definitely wasn’t heading in a positive direction,” said Christina Castro to the Chicago Tribune. The mother of three did not wait around until this last teacher’s strike hit the city, she had decided last fall to enroll her children into a Catholic school. And she isn’t the only one.
This last duke out between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union led to the cancellation of classes that affected 330,000 students across the Windy City. Chicago Catholic school phone lines lit up, all inquiring what it takes to get their child enrolled. What they found out is that private school’s cost.
“We received financial aid — my older daughter earned a merit scholarship — and all three of my kids are thriving in their new environment,” Castro said. She didn’t seem dismayed. If anything, she was more relieved. Still, “I knew it would be expensive to send three kids to private schools, but I thought, with faith, hope and prayer, we’ll figure it out, and we have,” she added.
Cost aside, the local Catholic schools are seeing a lot of interest from frustrated parents. In Cook and Lake counties alone, they have 157 archdiocesan-run schools. Of those, 85 are Catholic elementary and high schools within the city.
“I know from talking with parents that there’s a lot of frustration right now,” said Greg Richmond, superintendent of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools. Richmond says it is too early to say just what effect the latest shutdown is going to have on enrollments across the city, but he did note that the archdiocese schools reported a 5% jump in enrollment this past fall. Perhaps they knew what was coming. That increase was the first the Catholic school system has seen in four decades.
When the archdiocese schools began to see the jump during the pandemic, Richmond felt it was because Chicago Public Schools and a number of surrounding school districts had chosen to remain with remote learning while the Catholic Schools were fully open. “We thought the growth might just be temporary, and families might check us out, and then leave when their public schools reopened, but now, we’re seeing that most of them are staying,” Richmond said.
This not only bodes well for the local Catholic schools, but it bodes well for all the children affected by the “are we or aren’t we open” Chicago Public Schools. Chicago parents are just thrilled to have options now, even though this new option may hit the pocketbook a little harder.
Archdiocese officials are hoping that tight budgets will not be the reason to enroll. The hope is that the upward trend they are seeing in enrollment continues and that the enhanced financial aid opportunities for Chicago parents will do the trick. Through the Illinois Invest in Kids Tax Credit Scholarship Program, the archdiocese raised over $11.5 million so they could pay full tuition for 2,100 kids from low-income families. They still have over 4,700 children remaining on the scholarship waitlist.
Chicago parents, as well as their children, deserve better. In fact, parents, children, and families across the nation deserve better. Perhaps they can all take solace in the fact that there are options out there. It’s time to start exploring them.
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