A small tale about school choice and a Home Depot | WBEZ
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A small tale about a new school, market-based education reforms and Home Depot

Efrain Raigoza and his wife Lulu have been working for months to get a new Noble charter high school at 47th and California—and this week they got their wish. Chicago’s Board of Education said yes.

I met the Raigozas at a little rally where the school will be built. They really want to send their 8th grade daughter here—and now, as long as she wins the admissions lottery, they’ll be able to.

We were talking, and I asked Mr. Raigoza about the possibility of other nearby schools closing because this one was opening.

Gage Park High School, two blocks from Mr.Raigoza’s home, has lost three-quarters of its students as new schools have opened. And now there’s this one.

Nosotros no queremos que se cierre ninguna. Cada quien queremos opciones diferentes para nuestros hijos. No estamos de acuerdo en que se cierre una (escuela) para que se abra otra—tampoco eso no.

“We wouldn’t want one school to close because another is opening,” said Mr. Raigoza. “We just want different options for our children. Choices.”

I was about to walk on, when Mr. Raigoza brought up his appliance business.

A todo el mundo nos preocupa que vengan otros negocios y nos cierran. Como a nosotros, cuando vino la Home Depot—la pusieron allí—dejamos de vender nuevo…

“We all worry about another business coming in and shutting us down,” he said. “Like me, when Home Depot came in….”

He pointed in the direction of the big orange store at 47th and Western.

Vendían mucho nuevo—traen por mayoreo, muchas trocas. Dejamos de vender nuevo. Vino ese negocio y nos quitó…

“We had to stop selling new appliances—we just sell used now,” Mr. Raigoza says. “They took all our business. They buy wholesale and bring truckloads.”

Ese negocio cerró dos ferreterías grandotas aquí en la 55 y la Kedzie.

“Home Depot shut down two hardware stores in the neighborhood,” he says. “Big stores. They were here for years.”

Alli muchos de mis clientes me dijeron, Oye pues, mira pues—ya está la Home Depot aquí. O sea, por $100, $150 dólares mas, me compro uno nuevo. Mejor me voy alla. Mas barato.

Raigoza says a lot of his customers told him, “Look, Home Depot is here. For $100, $150 more, I can just buy a new appliance. I’ll probably go there.”

“Competition,” says his friend, sitting next to him at the rally.

Of course, Noble charter schools are not the Home Depot. And delivering education is more complicated than selling appliances.  Lots of people believe competition is helping schools get better. Others say it’s leading to winners and losers.

Mr. Raigoza says people want choices. That’s a big concept right now in education—one that sounds right to Mr. Raigoza—despite his being on the losing end of that same system in his business life.

Nunca me preguntaron si estaba de acuerdo en que se abriera. Pero no me hubiera opuesto de todos modos.

Mr. Raigoza says nobody ever asked him if a Home Depot should locate in the area—but he wouldn’t have opposed it, he says. He’d also like a Walmart here. Something to bring the neighborhood up.

The Raigozas daughter will apply to the new Noble school. If she wins the lottery she’ll be in the first class of freshmen a year from now.

The school will be Noble’s 17th campus. The charter network says it wants to increase its market share of students by 50 percent over the next five years.

I asked the school district the same question I had asked Mr. Raigoza. CPS isn’t saying whether dozens of shrinking high schools might fold in this education marketplace.

Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

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