Wednesday, April 30, 2014

“New Israel”, a Jewish State in Southeast Texas???

The “Uganda Plan” Revisited? US Congressional Candidate Proposes Creation of Jewish Homeland in Southeast Texas

allan levene

A congressional candidate named Allan Levene is proposing a solution to Israel’s problem with the Palestinians (since 1948) by creating a second ‘Israeli’ state in Eastern Texas. Yes, you read this right. Eastern Texas. According to the Times of Israel, Mr. Levene’s idea would only work if “eminent domain” is established by the US government and if Israel withdraws to it pre-1967 borders. That would set the stage for a ‘New Israel’ within the United States:
The idea, briefly, is to take (through eminent domain) roughly 8,000 square miles of sparsely populated land bordering the Gulf of Mexico and give it to Israel as a second, non-contiguous part of the State of Israel. Israel would get the land only if it agrees to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders
I would be curious to see how Texans would react to a Jewish homeland in East Texas. Besides one of the largest pro-Israel organizations in the United States is located in San Antonio, Texas called ‘Christians United for Israel (CUFI)’ who wish to educate Christians on why they should support the State of Israel:
While millions of Christians support Israel, there are millions more who do not yet vocally stand up for the Jewish state. It is crucial to educate Christians on the Biblical and moral imperatives to support Israel and to build Christian support for Israel throughout America
If Levene’s plan follows through if he is elected to congress, Will Texans still support a state of Israel in their own backyard? But Levene says “everybody wins” if the US government agrees to partition the state of Texas:
Israel wins because it would gain a new, peaceful territory far from the strife of the Middle East, in a place where, as Levene suggests, “the climate is similar,” and Israel could “have access to the Gulf of Mexico for international trade.” The U.S. wins because it would no longer need to send Israel billions of dollars a year in foreign aid. Texas wins because of all the construction jobs from building an entirely new state within its borders. The Palestinians win because they get the West Bank, and because now Israel, too, gets to see just how fun it is to have a non-contiguous state. Everybody wins!
The father of modern-political Zionism and the founder of the State of Israel, Thomas Hertzl considered a number of locations including Uganda, Argentina and even Alaska to form a Zionist state of Israel. The Times of Israel also stated:
And, in fact, it’s an idea with plenty of precedent. Theodor Herzl temporarily embraced a British proposal to establish a Jewish homeland in Uganda (though the backlash against the idea almost destroyed the Zionist movement). And in 1938-40, various plans were floated to settle European Jewish refugees in the Alaska territories – a notion that later inspired Michael Chabon’s novel, “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union.”
This idea of a Jewish State besides one based in Palestine is not new. An interesting event took place in Basel, Switzerland on August 26th, 1903. Before the British government offered the country of Palestine to the Zionist political movement in 1948, a country in Africa called Uganda was on the list of possible future Jewish settlements known as the “Uganda Plan”. Before Palestine was turned into the state of Israel, Uganda was seen as a possible home for the Jewish people who were persecuted in Russia. They were subject to anti-Jewish sentiments among the Russian population. Other areas in the world were also considered for a Jewish homeland including Patagonia in Southern part of Argentina.
In Joseph Telushkin’s ‘Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know about the Jewish Religion, Its People, and Its History’ stated a historical fact that “Britain stepped into the picture, offering Herzl land in the largely undeveloped area of Uganda (today, it would be considered an area of Kenya).” The proposal was controversial to the Jewish community. The idea was rejected at the Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905. It is interesting to note that a small number of Jewish families did immigrate to Kenya before and after World War II, mostly in the capital of Nairobi. Today, there are a few hundred Kenyan Jews living in Nairobi.
It is hard to imagine the state of Israel in Africa. Besides, racism in Israel is comparable to Apartheid South Africa in the 1960’s. With Ethiopian Black Jews living in Israel facing unprecedented levels of racism including the forced massed sterilizations on Ethiopian women according to a report conducted by Haaretz in 2012 reported that “Women who immigrated from Ethiopia eight years ago say they were told they would not be allowed into Israel unless they agreed to be injected with the long-acting birth control drug Depo Provera, according to an investigative report aired Saturday on the Israel Educational Television program “Vacuum.” According to IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis service launched by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in 2012, racism against Ethiopian Jews in Israel does exist:
An estimated 125,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, but while they are supposed to be full citizens with equal rights, their community has continued to face widespread discrimination and socio-economic difficulties, according to its leaders. A recent decision – as reported by local media – by 120 homeowners not to sell or rent their apartments to Israeli-Ethiopian families has brought discrimination against Ethiopian Jews in Israel back into the spotlight.
Hundreds of Ethiopian Israelis took to the streets on 18 January to protest the move by landlords in the southern city of Kiryat Malakhi – Shay Sium’s hometown.
It is an interesting part of history that forces to ask the question: What if Israel did make Uganda, a country in Eastern-Africa their home? If the Palestinians, Ethiopian and Sephardic Jews suffer from racism in modern-day Israel, imagine if Uganda was turned into a Jewish homeland? Would it have been another Palestine? “Shall we choose Palestine or Argentina? Thomas Hertzl wrote.  Argentina? That would have been interesting, but Eastern Texas as the ‘New Israel’? Would Texan’s then be the new Palestinians?  Creating a state through “eminent domain” would treat the citizens of Texas as such.  And it sure won’t be a good start to diplomatic relations.  What is interesting about Allan Levene is that he is running for a congressional seat in two states, Hawaii and Georgia under the Republican Party, but not in the state of Texas.
Another very interesting note on Levene’s candidacy is that “He also wants to put conspiracy theories to rest by investigating national catastrophes with not one, not two, but three separate commissions.” I actually agree with his idea for new commissions, perhaps a new “911 commission?” Allan Levene’s proposal would not happen anytime soon, even if he is elected. But the real question we should ask is, would Washington and Brussels consider creating a ‘New Israel’ in Eastern Texas if a war were to take place in the Middle East resulting in the destruction of several countries including Israel?  It does raise a serious debate.

Muslims must accept Britain's Christian values, says former Home Secretary

Jack Straw
Former Labour home secretary Jack Straw Photo: GEOFF PUGH FOR THE TELEGRAPH

Jack Straw says Islamist 'plot' to take over Birmingham schools is product of power struggle within Muslim community as he tells parents to accept Christianity 'permeates our sense of citizenship'

Muslims must accept that Britain is built on Christian values, a former Home Secretary has said, in the wake of mounting evidence that a group of schools have been taken over in a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot by radical Islamists.
It is “inevitable” that many Muslim communities will not integrate with the rest of British society but it must be made clear that attempts to isolate Muslim pupils from the rest of society are unacceptable, Jack Straw said.
The alleged plot by Islamic radicals to take control of a series of schools in Birmingham is the product of a little-understood power struggle between Muslim denominations, Mr Straw, the MP for Blackburn said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, the head of Ofsted, is to take personal charge of the schools watchdog’s probe into allegations that radical Islamists had sought to infiltrate the governing bodies of secular schools.
It is claimed head teachers were pressurised into segregating pupils, abandoning “un-Islamic” sections of the GCSE biology syllabus and neglecting non-Muslim pupils.
An anti-Semitic preacher who sympathises with Al-Qaeda was invited to address students at Park View school, Department for Education inspectors found.
At least six of the 18 schools said to be involved in the plot will be failed by Ofsted, a measure which normally leads to them being placed in special measures and their leadership team replaced.
Peter Clarke, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, has also been asked to investigate the claims by Michael Gove, the education secretary.
Mr Straw said Muslim parents must accept that their own beliefs cannot supplant the Christian values that underpin British society.
“The parents have to accept… that we also live in the United Kingdom and that alongside values that are religiously based, there has to be a clear understanding that this is the UK, and there are a set of values, that are indeed Christian based, which permeate our sense of citizenship,” Mr Straw told the BBC.
Society must “spell it out to them” that it is not acceptable to teach that non-Muslims and women are inferior.
He added: “We have a large Muslim population in this country, and it’s almost inevitable that people will tend to live in areas next door to people like themselves.
“We already have a number of areas where most of the children, and in some cases 100 per cent of the children, in the school are of the Muslim faith. That’s something we have to cope with.”
He added: “We have to understand that within the Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, Muslim-heritage community, there are a lot of tensions going on. They are very different from those that affect Christianity, particularly in the last century and the century before that. There are power struggles which are badged and labelled in reference to different denominations.”
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the allegations of a plot were credible.
“There is most definitely a plot by a small group of individuals and the plot actually affects the majority of the Muslim community in Birmingham,” he said.
Park View Educational Trust said it had received “hate mail” after details of the DfE inspectors’ report were leaked to the Sunday Telegraph. It welcomed Sir Michael’s intervention, adding: “We do not recognise the accounts we have seen in the media as accurate or reasonable descriptions of our schools.”


The Şakirin Mosque is thought to be the first Mosque in Turkey to be designed by women and it’s beautiful. The Mosque which is situated in Istanbul combines a contemporary and modern design whilst paying homage to traditional Ottoman design.
The 500 capacity Mosque was designed by interior designer Zeynep Fadıllıoğlu who is famous for designing shops, restaurants and luxury hotels along with other female artists receiving worldwide acclaim.

It features traditional Ottoman style features such as a large dome covering the main prayer area, minarets and a courtyard.
It looks even more beautiful at night.
Take a step inside, and it’s like you’ve taken a step into the future…
The Minbar has been given a modern rethink whilst maintaining the traditional steps for the Imam to climb in order to deliver his sermon.
The golden-blue Mihrab looks like something from a Sci Fi movie
The chandelier is said to represent ‘Nur’ descending on worshippers.
                            The women’s gallery provides ample space for female worshippers.
And the walls are decorated with the names of Allah and Qur’anic verses.
Like traditional Ottoman mosques, the ceiling bears the names of Allah, His Messenger (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) and the rightly guided companions.
Now who wouldn’t mind having this as their local Mosque? If you’re ever in Istanbul, be sure to visit it.



Well, this is a story I never thought I’d be reading.
In California of all places, prison doctors have sterilized over 150 women. Why? They don’t want to have to provide welfare funding for any children they may have in the future.
The sterilization procedures cost California taxpayers $147,460 between 1997 and 2010. The doctors at the prison argue it is money well-spent.
Dr. James Heinrich, an OB-GYN at Valley State Prison for Women, said, “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”



Although such procedures may seem harsh, they are not illegal. The Supreme Court ruled in 1927 that women can be forcibly sterilized in jail in Buck vs Bell. Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
Holmes wrote, “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the state for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, in order to prevent our being swamped with incompetence.”
In the California prisons, the jailed women are not being forced to be sterilized. But the women say they get pressured by the doctors to make the decision. One inmate said, “I figured that’s just what happens in prison – that that’s the best kind of doctor you’re going get.”
There is a regulation in California that requires state approval for each sterilization procedure. Doctors at the prison were able to get around that, however. The prison medical manager said she signed off on the sterilizations since Heinrich listed them as a “medical emergency.”
Do you think these sterilizations are wrong? On one hand, the very idea is somewhat disturbing. On the other hand, however, it likely does prevent more generations of (expensive) children exposed to drug and crime filled lives.

The Moment Cop Shot 19-Year-Old DEAD At Party While Friends Looked On In Horror


There is no audio in the video, but what we know is that a Kentucky police officers shot several times through the windshield of Samantha Ramsey, 19, of Hebron, Kentucky. Ramsey was killed by Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Tyler Brockman, who says that he was trying to stop her from leaving a party early Saturday morning.
Dashcam video shows the officer trying to stop the car, but it does not show what he later admitted to: jumping on the hood and firing into the windshield, killing Ramsey.
Now, a 48 minute video has been released to the Cincinnati-based WLWT. It shows Brockman approaching the car and Ramsey not stopping, but it is far from clear that he needed to jump on the hood and dump round after round through the windshield. While the shooting occurred off camera the hysterical reactions of friends nearby are clearly shown by the dashcam.
What we know for sure is that officer Brockman was trying to stop Ramsey from leaving the party, but he failed to stop her from reaching her car. She fled, and he positioned himself in danger, she was not herself trying to drive towards him. This makes things fairly complicated for him from a legal perspective, but that hasn’t stopped die-hard “right or wrong” supporters of the police from attempting to justify the shooting.
Both friends in the footage can be seen throwing their arms in the air multiple times. The person on the right side of the screen, as well, can be seen rocking back and forth, unable to calm down due to the killing of his friend.
Brockman has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated, but so far, the investigation has shown he had only the most minor and superficial of leg injuries according to sources in contact with WLW.
Ramsey’s friend Gunnar Buemi told the station during a candlelight vigil. “That’s murder!”
Buemi shouted and frantically waved his arms as people cheered him on. All seemed to agree that “Justice needs to be done about this injustice. We’re all sitting here lighting candles, being quiet when the government is out here shooting.
“Any other human would have been put in jail for that. He needs to answer for what he did to that family.”
Another friend, Chelsea Pendleton told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “The cop was in the wrong… I was there. I was in the back seat. That was unnecessary force. He had no right to do that.”
“That was dead body weight on the gas pedal after she was shot,” she continued.
“I just want to know what happened. I want answers,” Brandi Stewart said to Cincinnati-based WXIX. “He was the last person that looked in my daughter’s eyes that saw her face and I want answers.”
Watch the video below…

If you think Ramsey’s friends and family deserve answers then help get the word out and keep pressure on the Boone County Sheriff’s Department.
Contact the department below:
2121 County Dr, Columbia, MO 65202
(573) 875-1111
SPREAD THE WORD and encourage others to contact the Sheriff’s Department and DEMAND ANSWERS!


Chicago Racism: Rahm Emmanuel's supposedly "cash strapped" plans to build a 'Second Payton" School

Leaders from Chicago's Black Community responded vigorously to the announcement by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel that the supposedly "cash strapped" Chicago Board of Education will build a "Second Payton" selective enrollment high school within a mile of the current Walter Payton high school, while large sections of the city's West Side and South Side continue to suffer from neglect or worse at the hands of the school board and school system CEO appointed by the mayor.
The new high school, which will be named after President Barack Obama, becomes a symbol of Chicago racism even before its doors open. It will sit on the site of what had been the Cabrini-Green Public Housing area. Cabrini, which was once home to thousands of poor and working class families, most of them Black, is now vacant land, with the families that once lived there having been dispersed as far away as Iowa by Chicago housing policies.
Despite the fact that CPS officials, backed by the Chicago Tribune and a dwindling number of other powerful corporate interests, continue to claim that CPS is facing a huge "deficit" and has to implement false austerity programs across the city, the new "Barack Obama High School" will be built at a cost of at least $60 million. It is scheduled to be built less than a mile from an empty high school building (Near North) that has been sitting vacant for more than a decade.
Few Black officials other than CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett came out in favor of Barack Obama High School. A lone cheerleader is Alderman Walter Burnett, whose ward include the area. Burnett's deal with the mayor ensures that even the lowest scoring kids in the area will be able to get into the "New Payton" because there will be a "neighborhood component."
The mayor's carefully choreographed announcement came a day after his hand-picked Chicago Board of Education voted to give a no-bid management consulting contract to the controversial AUSL, which will fire all the teachers and other staff (including principals) at three inner city elementary schools. The proposal to award the consulting contracts, which increase the funding for each of the schools involved by around $1 million per year, was made by CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett, who stood beside Emanuel the next day to announce "Obama Prep."
The expansion of selective enrollment high schools within a mile of Lake Michigan comes as dozens of schools and some entire communities in the city's vast "bungalow belt" (working class and middle class) and ghettos and barrios protest that their schools are overcrowded and that their communities in many cases need additions or new schools. At recent Board of Education meetings, parents and leaders from the Northwest Side and Southwest Side have reminded the Board that their schools needed more. Parents from Canty Elementary School on the city's Northwest Side have now protested for 15 years about the overcrowding at their school. And at one recent Board meeting, a Southwest Side alderman asked that CPS build a new selective enrollment high school in his part of town because, he said, the travel to the available ones for his constituents was very far.
Barbara Byrd Bennett has ignored them all, claiming that "austerity" narrowed the ability of the Board to provide new facilities. Then she again joined the man who brought her to Chicago from Michigan to announce another school construction project to further the privileges of those who already have more privileges than most families in Chicago. Neither Emanuel nor Byrd Bennett addressed the issue of why they are building an expensive new building less than a mile from one that sits vacant. Nor did press reports press the issue.

Chicago Public Schools "Chief Executive Officer" Barbara Byrd Bennett (above, during the April 23, 2014 meeting of the Board) did not even mention the fact that she would be appearing the day after the Board meeting to announce a plan to build a $70 million new selective enrollment high school less than a mile from the tony Walter Payton High School. During the April 23 Board meeting, Byrd Bennett's scripts called for her to claim that the interests of the children of the West Side and South Side will best be served by firing all the teachers and other staff at three schools targeted for so-called "turnaround." Then, despite years of appeals for a general high school on the city's Far West Side (in the Austin community), she dressed up the following day to slavishly continue her repeating of the party line of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who appointed her less than two years ago. Substance photo by David Vance.One response that came out follows:
For Immediate Release: Contact: Dwayne Truss (773-879-5216) If it is not clear to the black community that Mayor Emmanuel could care less about providing well-resourced schools for our children, today’s announcement proposing to build a new “Selective Enrollment High School” named after President Barack Obama at the intersection of Halsted and Division is a slap to both black families and children.
The proposed use of $60 million in Tax Increment Funds (TIF) for 1,200 students ($50,000 per student) is money that should be used to provide adequate funding for all of Chicago’s neighborhood schools rather than cater to wealthy middle-class families the school is targeting.
Facts about Mayor Emmanuel’s education plan concerning black students:
-- Mayor Emmanuel closed 46 neighborhood schools on both the West and South Sides of Chicago.
-- The Mayor announced the expansion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) in five elementary schools. Three of the five will be based on the North Side of Chicago.
-- The Mayor just privatized three neighborhood schools by giving no bid contracts to the Academy of Urban School Leadership (AUSL) formerly chaired by the current Board of Education President Dave Vitale.
-- Mayor Emmanuel supported opening new charter schools in African-American communities where neighborhood schools were closed. Especially in Austin where the Chicago Education Partnership (CEP) is led by the same leadership of the By The Hand Club for Kids-a Moody Bible Church sponsored organization-with no history of ever operating a school. The school was granted conditional approval by CPS as to give it time to redo its’ poorly proposed curriculum. The leadership of the proposed school is all white.
-- 68% of the schools located in North Lawndale are privately managed by several unaccountable organizations. The student population is over 90% African-American. Those who control the management of those schools are white.
-- Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy (ABEA) did not staff critical classroom (biology, science, and music) teachers until March of 2014 because Mayor Emmanuel’s “per pupil” budgeting policy resulted in budget cuts of $600,000. The Chicago Tribune just documented that charter schools are 65 times more likely to expelled black students without restorative practices then neighborhood schools. How is that for an effective school to prison pipeline?
I am calling on black elected officials to begin telling the Mayor following:
· stop his creation of a multi-class school system
· stop privatizing schools in black communities
· fairly fund all neighborhood schools
· support a fully elected Chicago Board of Education.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. April 24, 2014. CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office. 312.744.3334
CPS Office of Communications. 773.553.1620
School to Be Named After President Barack Obama
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett today [April 24, 2014] announced plans to build a new selective enrollment high school for School Year 2017-18 (SY17-18) that will be named the Barack Obama College Preparatory High School. The school will ultimately enroll 1,200 students, creating more opportunities for students and continuing Mayor Emanuel’s pledge to provide more high-quality options for families across the city.
“We must seize every opportunity to ensure our students receive a world-class, 21st century education and that they are able to take advantage of the academic opportunities they have earned,” said Mayor Emanuel. ““Year after year, too many of our students who have put in years of hard work are turned away because as a city we haven’t had the capacity to meet their capability and this important investment will help us fix that.”
This will be CPS’s eleventh selective enrollment high school and, as with other selective enrollment high schools, students from across the City will make up the student body. It will open in the fall of 2017 with an inaugural freshman class of nearly 300 students and will add subsequent grade levels each year following. Approximately 70 percent of the school’s seats will be made available to students through the selective enrollment admissions process.
The school will also establish a neighborhood preference for students to fill the remaining seats. This enrollment model has proven successful at Jones College Prep and Westinghouse College Prep.
Selective enrollment schools are highly competitive and the demand from parents and students far exceeds the capacity. Applications for these schools grew 8 percent this school year with 16,440 students vying for one of approximately 3,200 seats throughout the district. As in years past, more than 2,400 students this year who qualified for admissions into a selective enrollment school were denied because there were not enough seats available.
“All of Chicago’s children deserve a rigorous academic environment that is well suited to their individual needs and designed to prepare them for college and beyond,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “When a student has worked hard to make the grade and excel, we need to do our part to provide them with opportunities that will ensure they can live up to and achieve their full potential.”
The new selective enrollment school announced today builds on Mayor Emanuel’s and CEO Byrd-Bennett’s plans to expand selective enrollment options throughout CPS. The recent expansion of Jones College Prep will accommodate an additional 800 students by SY16-17, raising the school’s total enrollment to 1,700. Similarly, Mayor Emanuel and CEO Byrd-Bennett announced plans last year to expand the nationally ranked Walter Payton College Prep by additional 300-400 students in coming years.
"I am pleased to join the Mayor and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd Bennett in providing another high-quality education option for parents of CPS students from the Cabrini Green, Near North neighborhoods and City-Wide," said Alderman Walter Burnett, 27th Ward. "We have seized an incredible opportunity to continue to invest in our future through education."
The school project will be funded through approximately $60 million in TIF funds and will be built on Chicago Park District property near Skinner North Classical School, a high-performing, Kindergarten through 8th grade elementary school. The expansion and renovation of Jones College Prep in the South Loop was made possible thanks to $115 million in TIF funds, part of $1.2 billion in TIF dollars committed to CPS to support building and improving local schools.
The school will be centrally located and accessible to mass transit and expressways, making it accessible for students from across the city.
Mayor Emanuel and CEO Byrd-Bennett have taken a series of steps to improve access to high-quality schools. Other investments have included 5,000 additional seats in early education centers, a full day of school for all students starting in kindergarten, and more access to rigorous courses such as IB or STEM that are aligned with the job market to prepare our students for the 21st economy. Early this week, Mayor Emanuel and CEO Byrd-Bennett also announced that five elementary schools across the city will establish new International Baccalaureate programmes beginning next fall, adding an additional 1,500 IB seats in the district and making CPS the nation’s largest operator of IB campuses.
CPS serves 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.
By Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah and John Byrne. Tribune reporters. 7:28 p.m. CDT, April 24, 2014
Chicago students vying for hard-to-get spots in the city's most competitive public high schools will get a new selective enrollment high school named after President Barack Obama.
For parents frustrated with a gut-wrenching process that some have compared to getting their child into an Ivy League school, 300 additional freshmen seats come as welcome news.
“A lot of parents in the city will be happy to know there's more school seats in a central location,” said Rebecca Labowitz, who runs the “cpsobsessed” blog, frequently filled with comments from parents about the district's selective enrollment admissions process.
Her son, a 5th grader, will be a freshman the year Barack Obama College Preparatory High School is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017. Located just north of Skinner North Classical School, near the former Cabrini-Green public housing complex, the school will pick about 70 percent of its students from throughout the city through the competitive selective enrollment process, and the remaining from the neighborhood.
For Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the announcement, coupled with an earlier University of Chicago study released Thursday showing more freshmen are on track to graduate high school, was an opportunity to celebrate a new course for Chicago Public Schools.
“For the first time in the city of Chicago, I get to say that (U.S. Education) Secretary (William) Bennett, who in 1987 said the city of Chicago is the worst public school system in America, you're wrong. Dead wrong,” Emanuel said.
The freshmen-on-track graduation rate has gone up from 57 percent in 2007 to 82 percent, according to the University of Chicago study, which was touted by Emanuel's office today.
Mayoral critics noted the $60 million high school was announced a day after CPS voted to turn over management of three failing schools in impoverished neighborhoods on the city's West and South Sides to a private organization. They contend that instead of investing more resources in top-tier schools that serve a small number of students, the money should be used to help neighborhood schools across the city, many of which saw severe budget cuts this school year.
Some also wondered why Obama College Prep was not being built on the South Side in the president's Kenwood neighborhood or in the community where First Lady Michelle Obama grew up, rather than among well-to-do North Siders. The mayor last fall announced a $17 million addition for another top tier school, Walter Payton College Prep, located nearby.
“He's clearly trying to satisfy a certain demographic by putting in another selective enrollment school right near another one,” said Wendy Katten with parent group Raise Your Hand. “This is only going to impact a small percentage of students. It's not going to address a citywide need for strong neighborhood high schools.”
Selective enrollment schools are highly competitive. This school year, the district received applications from 16,440 students for 3,200 seats. More than 2,400 students were denied.
CPS' top schools — which rank among the best in the state — admit students based on test scores, grades and results of an entrance exam. CPS also factors in the socio-economic demographics of applicants' communities, or “tiers,” to increase diversity, which results in students from wealthier neighborhoods needing near perfect scores to get in.
Labowitz said there's a need for high selective enrollment schools on the South and West Sides as well, but North Siders feel more anxiety because of the nearly impossible scores required.
“There's a great sense of need on the North Side because it tends be a tier of parents who have high scoring kids whose kids don't get a North Side seat,” Labowitz said. “For many tier 3 or tier 4 parents, the only acceptable option is a selective enrollment high school. For many, neighborhood high schools still haven't earned the reputation of being academically challenging or safe.”
While most fight for seats at North Side College Preparatory School, Walter Payton and Whitney Young, the addition of more seats at Jones College Prep last year — a project begun under former Mayor Richard Daley — added 125 more spots for freshmen. The Payton addition to be ready in December 2015 will add about 100 more.
At Obama Prep, which is slated to open in the fall of 2017, the school will ultimately grow to 1,200 students. The school will be funded through approximately $60 million in TIF funds and will be built on Chicago Park District property.
Because the school would be paid for with tax-increment financing funds, it would not add to CPS' burdensome debt load. However, some view the tax-increment financing mechanism itself as a drain on school coffers, since the funding for TIF projects comes from property tax dollars, a portion of which would typically go to the school district.
Emanuel refused to get into specifics about any discussions he has had with Obama about the naming of the school, but said the president is aware of the project.
“I'm not going to put words in his mouth, but he knows about it and he's excited about it,” Emanuel said.
Tribune reporter Heather Gillers contributed to this story.