Chicago Has a Destructive Plan to "Prepare" Students for Life After High School

Chicago is touting a first-of-its-kind requirement for high school students — and it’s raising plenty of eyebrows.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a proposal last week to withhold high school diplomas from students without concrete post-graduation plans. The plan has been called “cruel and appalling,” “absurd,” and a “half-baked” attempt to “micro-manage.”

This attempt would demand students to prove, with acceptance letters, that they are set up for one of six post-high school plans: college, military enlistment, a job program (like coding camp), a trade pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship, a gap-year program, or a job. The mayor’s office says the “groundbreaking” requirement will help students succeed past high school. But for now, the proposal faces the charge that it may not stand on firm legal grounds — and that it pressures students without supporting them. Pacific Standard spoke with Miranda Johnson, associate director of the Education Law and Policy Institute at Loyola University, about whether the plan will make it — and what components it needs to help the students it’s targeting.


Elena Gooray: Does the school district have the legal authority to make this kind of requirement?

Miranda Johnson: I think currently that’s unclear. There is a provision in the Illinois administrative code saying that additional requirements for graduation may be adopted by local boards of education. So that provision seems to provide authority for local boards of education to go above and beyond the curricular requirements in state law for high school graduation. However, much of what state law refers to is coursework and curriculum.

Our concern is that this type of proposal seems to go beyond curricular requirements into the realm of their post-secondary planning process, as well as the process that would enable students to move into post-secondary choices. I think there is the potential for legal challenges. We’ve looked into what other legal challenges in this area have…

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