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Parents May Have To Pay For Pre-K In Lincoln Park

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A pre-K perk for the wealthy just got nixed.

Taxpayers are off the hook because parents in Lincoln Park will have to pay up. They'll learn more at a meeting this week.

CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker explains some of the controversial changes coming and why CPS had to make them.

It's a touchy subject.

For months, CBS 2 had a difficult time getting some parents to talk. The topic involves race, class and a major disruption of a top tier public school in the predominantly white and wealthy Lincoln Park community.

What's prompting the shake up? Rewind 11 years.

Rufus Williams was the president of the Chicago School Board. The subject of a meeting was how to attract white parents to Oscar Mayer, where the black population was 270, Hispanic 143 and white, 133. The solution: to restrict Oscar Mayer's attendance to mostly neigbhorhood students and offer free pre-K Montessori.

According to the Inspector General's report, a perk worth an average of $30,000 at a private school. But since it's public, taxpayers foot the bill. In a transcript from that 2008 board meeting Williams expressed his concern.

"After we've created this wonderful school, black students would no longer have access to it," said Williams.

And that's exactly what seems to have happened. Today 553 white students attend Oscar Mayer, 105 Hispanics, and 55 blacks. There were those willing to talk to CBS 2.

"I think this school is lacking diversity. I hope the plan they're putting in place will increase diversity," said Oscar Mayer parent Deni Mayer.

That's part of the plan CPS presented to Oscar Mayer parents at an April 25 meeting. To increase diversity by offering admission to students outside Lincoln Park. It's a concern for some.

"Overcrowding. If you need to allow students from other areas, that's a concern."

And that $30,000 pre-K perk that the wealthy have enjoyed for more than 10 years will end. Parents will now have to pay close to $15,000 a year.

Myles Lockett moved to the community so his son could attend preschool for free.

"It's not fair to my family," said Lockett. Even though I live in the neighborhood I don't make that kind of money, especially for one kid. So it's not fair."

The changes take place in the fall. The meeting is Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at  Oscar Mayer.



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