Five hundred Chicago Public Schools students at five high schools will receive free CTA rides to school, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced today.
Clemente, Richards, Sullivan, TEAM Englewood and Wells will participate in the program during the first semester of the school year. It is being paid for by a $50,000 donation from local philanthropist and environmental activist Wendy Abrams.
“Our kids many times face the difficulty of literally just getting to school,” Emanuel said at a news conference. “If it succeeds here, we’re going to expand it beyond that, ‘cause the whole goal is not a free card. The whole goal is making sure every barrier is knocked out to getting our kids in school and learning.”
To participate, students will have to sign a contract agreeing that they will not be absent more than five times per quarter, they will not be tardy more than six times and that they will not have any disciplinary violations. If they fail to meet any of those terms, the fare cards are supposed to be revoked. The money will be evenly divided between the schools, and principals will identify students to get the fare cards.
The University of Chicago’s Network for College Success will evaluate how effective the program is in boosting student attendance, according to the mayor’s office.
The idea was proposed to Emanuel by the Mikva Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission, a group of 25 Chicago high school and college students who regularly meet with the mayor.
Emanuel also announced today that all CPS students will have a free ride on CTA buses and trains on Sept. 4, the first day of the school year for most students. The roughly $150,000 tab is being picked up by Sun-Times Media, the parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times. The media company has signed on for a three-year sponsorship of the first day of school program.
Although the Chicago Teachers Union is still holding out the possibility of a strike, school is guaranteed to start on time this year.
The union must file a 10-day strike notice before teachers can walkout. They have yet to do so. Negotiations continue, but both sides remain far apart on issues like raises, tying pay to student scores, and job security.
“I expect everybody to continue to put our children first and get their job done so our kids will have a full school day and a full school year started on time and stay on time,” Emanuel said.