Chicago Schools Bribe Parents With Gift Cards To Stay Involved

Parents have long debated whether or not it's healthy to bribe kids to do things like finish their homework on time or eat all of their vegetables. But what happens when the tables are turned and parents are the ones being bribed to cooperate?

Chicago, Ill. is considering doing just that. As part of a pilot program launched at 70 public schools, Chicago parents will be given $25 Walgreens “Balance Rewards” cards in exchange for picking up their child’s report cards and attending parent-teacher conferences, according to a press release from the city.

The program is being viewed as a way to incentivize parents to stay more involved in their children's academic lives. All of the schools selected to participate have had continual difficulty engaging parents.

The public-private partnership appears to be a win-win for both the schools and for Walgreens, which just launched its first loyalty card in an attempt to attract shoppers with discounts, the Chicago Tribune reports. With over 150 stores in Chicago alone, Walgreen’s CEO Greg Wasson said he only hopes that the pilot program will expand to more schools.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who thought up the program, told the Chicago Sun-Times that he envisions the program will close some of the communication gaps that now exist between many public school students and their parents. The city's schools plan to track and analyze the data to see how effective it is in promoting parent-teacher involvement.

Making sure parents are involved in their children’s education is crucial to academic success. A recent study from North Carolina State University, the University of California and Brigham Young University discovered that parental involvement is more significant to a student's performance than the quality of the school itself.

Chicago public schools, in particular, seem to be struggling to find ways to increase student success rates. In 2011, less than 24 percent of Chicago public school graduates were prepared for a four-year college program, according to the Tribune.

In response to skepticism of Emmanuel's program, the mayor's office released a statement from Beth Swanson, deputy chief of staff for education, that said: “This is about our educators and CPS leadership working to be innovative and creative in order to increase parent involvement in their child's education, period.”

Strangely enough, this isn’t the first time that Chicago has used gift cards to incentivize residents to do the right thing. In June, the Chicago Police Department started accepting guns at churches in exchange for a $100 MasterCard gift card in an effort to keep weapons off the streets. Replica and BB guns were also accepted for a $10 gift card.



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