Chicago is taking a controversial approach when it comes to high school students meeting requirements to graduate. Starting in 2020, students wishing to receive a diploma from their high school must show they have one of the following lined up: an acceptance to a college or trade apprenticeship, a military enlistment, or a job offer.
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The plan, which was created by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has many questioning if a city mayor even has the right to deny a student a diploma he or she has otherwise earned.
Chris Cleveland, a Chicago Republican Party Chairman, has been vocal in his opposition to the plan. Cleveland, who has a public school student in his family, has asked the Democratic mayor to focus on lowering the dropout rate instead of giving students another reason to drop out.
“How can they deny a high school kid a diploma he or she has earned?” Cleveland told CNN. “It’s all well and good that they’re asking kids to think about their futures, but denying a kid a diploma because they didn’t get into college or get a job is absurd.”
Emanuel doesn’t see the plan that way though. Instead, he told the Washington Post the new policy is designed “to help kids have a plan, because they’re going to need it to succeed.”
Most would agree that a high school diploma is essential in today’s world, but some argue that the governor’s plan is simply another burden being placed on young people who are still trying to find their way in the world.
Critics of the plan have also cited the massive teacher layoffs that have plagued the city in the past year. In 2016, over 1,000 public institution teachers were laid off for budget reasons, according to the Daily Caller.
The city’s schools are in such financial straits that they reportedly have trouble keeping schools open all the way to the end of the school year.
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis thinks that this new plan sounds fine and on paper but puts an unnecessary burden on counselors who already monitor if students have met the other core curriculum requirements needed to graduate.
Emanuel said in April that he hopes to expand the plan in the future and implement it for all levels K-12.