Chicago public schools fight to survive as do their students

AP Photo/Martha Irvine

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In a Tribune Special Report, Tinden High School was reported as one of more than a dozen neighborhood high schools that has been slowly shrinking as well as being cut off of resources — draining yet another local school in one of Chicago’s many low-income areas.

The high school is just one of many that face possible closure, as CPS gives money to schools based on enrollment. CPS gave high schools about $5,300 per general education student this year – and Tilden’s annual budget of about $3.9 million faced significant faces big cuts if kids do not show up for class in the first few weeks of the new year, according to data provided by the Tribune.

Back in September, Tilden’s Principal Maurice Swinney was very anxious as few students walked through the metal detectors on the first day of classes.

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“Let’s say if every kid is about five grand — you really lose about $50,000 or so,” he said while greeting students.

Swinney and his staff spent the days following the first day of classes compiling lists of missing students, calling homes and knocking on neighborhood doors to attempt to help make Tilden get through the year after annual budget cuts became standard procedure.

Despite the district expanding the number of high school options, local families may choose from, enrollment has plummeted. From 2006 to 2015, overall CPS enrollment declined by more than 21,000 students – and since the start of the 2015-16 school year, the district has lost close to 21,000 additional students, according to data from the Tribune.

District officials said falling birthrates, slower immigration patterns and the well-documented flight of residents from the city’s South and West sides were to blame for the enrollment drop.

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According to CPS, more than 1,400 students attended Tilden at the beginning of the 2005-06 school year and by the autumn of 2015-16, the number was 311. Then in 2016-17 it was 280, then 250 by this school year’s 20th day of classes.

“We just want to bring some of the spirit back,” said Carla Anderson, a 2007 Tilden graduate who joined by two dozen other alumni at the celebration. She was discouraged after a recent tour of the building with her daughter.

“The spirit is gone,” Anderson said. “There was barely any students in the hallway. The classrooms were empty. We want this school to stay open as long as possible, because we know how it goes. There’s not many teachers, there’s not many students, so there’s not a lot of money coming into the school. Once they started taking away the programs, the kids started leaving.”

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