- On Thursday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city's 11th selective-enrollment school would be named for President Barack Obama.
- The Barack Obama Preparatory High School is to be built on the city's Near North Side, practically in the footprint of the former Cabrini-Green housing projects. The decision has ruffled the feathers of those on the South Side, as a similar school, Walter Payton College Prep, is already located nearby.
- The school's construction will be funded with $60 million in tax-increment financing and will serve 1,200, but many are wondering if it would have made more sense — and benefited needier students — if the school had been located closer to the Obamas' South Side Kenwood neighborhood or the neighborhood where Michelle Obama grew up.
The disappointment of many on the city's South Side, which is well-known for its highly publicized gang violence, is understandable. As Ald. Marty Quinn told the Chicago Sun-Times, commutes from his Southwest Side ward to most of the city's highly competitive selective-enrollment high schools are an hour and 43 minutes each way — a detail that has led many families to leave for the suburbs.
Mayor Emanuel, however, defends the location of the school by pointing out that two rail lines, four bus lines, open land, and full funding from TIF make the decision an easy one. Plus, as the Sun-Times says, it furthers his goal of keeping middle class families in the city (or at least the North Side of the city, anyway).
The actual name of the school could also still be up in the air, as Chicago Board of Education policy states that schools can only be named after the deceased.