The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, has announced a new plan that will require all students graduating from high school to provide a plan for the future as a graduation requirement. In order for students to get their high school diplomas, they will have to show they’ve secured a job, are in a trade apprenticeship, received an acceptance letter from a college, enlisted in the military, or are in a gap year program.
The mayor, who’s city has the nation’s third-largest school system, says it’s not just about getting kids to graduate after 12-years of school but getting them to a point where they can have a productive future. He drove his point home by saying, “We are going to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed. You cannot have kids think that 12th grade is done.” The new graduation requirement will take effect starting in the 2020 school year.
The mayor’s plan was adopted by the Board of Education towards the end of May. While it’s hard to argue that kids need more than a high school diploma in today’s world, many are having trouble accepting such a drastic program being pushed by the city. People are skeptical that the cash-strapped city will have the means and ability to make such a program work. Chicago is the first major city to have a post high school plan requirement for its graduating students.
A student from Chicago’s South Side, 17-year-old Jermiya Mitchell, is skeptical about the plan’s potential because she’s never had much interaction with her guidance counselor. She said, “We never had that conversation about life after high school. I would like to have a counselor that really wanted to know what I wanted to do after high school and would help me get there.”
People that are concerned about Mayor Emanuel’s plan say it’s because many of the city’s kids are from impoverished, violence-filled neighborhoods, and nothing is being done to actually improve their situation. Even attending a community college can be difficult for some students because the institutions are ill-prepared to deal with kids who are the first in their families to attend college.
The current financial outlook for Chicago’s public schools is so bleak, that more than one-thousand teachers and other staff members were laid-off in 2016. The district even struggled to keep its doors open for the final weeks of this school year.