Kalyn Belsha's excellent piece (Thousands of black students leave Chicago for other segregated districts), in the Chicago Reporter helps explain so much about the dramatic demographic shifts taking place in American cities. The whitening of the cities, and of Chicago in particular, isn't happenstance. Rather, it's the result of conscious planning and implementing a set of policies initiated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel which include disinvestment, the closing of schools and elimination of basic social services in already devastated black communities.
“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago.
The artist Jacob Lawrence depicted the Great Migration in 1941.
The result in Chicago has been a mass exodus or reverse migration by thousands African-American families. That exodus is larger than in any other metropolitan area in the country. It's cleared the way for gentrification on a mass scale and a weakening of black community political power, historically a key oppositional base for resistance to both Republican and Democratic machine politics.
Chicago was once a major destination for African-Americans during the Great Migration, but experts say today the city is pushing out poor black families. In less than two decades, Chicago lost one-quarter of its black population, or more than 250,000 people.
In the past decade, Chicago’s public schools lost more than 52,000 black students. Now, the school district, which was majority black for half a century, is on pace to become majority Latino. Black neighborhoods like Austin have experienced some of the steepest student declines and most of the school closures and budget cuts.
A common refrain is that Chicago’s black families are “reverse migrating” to Southern cities with greater opportunities, like Atlanta and Dallas. But many of the families fleeing the poorest pockets of Chicago venture no farther than the south suburbs or northwest Indiana. And their children end up in cash-strapped segregated schools like the ones they left behind, a Chicago Reporter investigation found.The loss of so many thousands of students living in poverty may also explain the sudden, "miraculous" bump in test scores and graduation rates at CPS, now being lauded by the mayor. This, in a school system marked by instability, where there's been no corresponding input of resources or classroom/teacher supports. Neither has there been marked improvement in the lives of most CPS students outside of school that would account for such a bump.
We can only conclude that this addition by subtraction has to do with changing the students rather than with the mayor's "reforms".
On the other hand, as African-American families leave Chicago, the percentage of poor black students in the suburbs has grown dramatically, straining already cash-strapped school districts.
High-poverty districts in northwest Indiana that took in many CPS transfers have also seen their budgets slashed in recent years after lawmakers rejiggered the state’s school funding formula and also spent more on charter schools and private-school vouchers.“It’s a menu of disinvestment,” says Elizabeth Todd-Breland, who teaches African-American history at the University of Illinois Chicago. “The message that public policy sends to black families in the city is that we’re not going to take care of you and if you just keep going away, that’s OK.”