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Old 12-17-2011, 07:45 PM
 
18 posts, read 31,367 times
Reputation: 24

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Hello everyone,

My husband and I are currently living in Phoenix, AZ and in the process of purchasing a property in one of the Chicago suburbs. One of the most important things that we are looking for is a gay friendly area. We have done quite a bit of research and have found that both Oak Park and Evanston are gay friendly. We have two kids, 7 and 12, so great schools are important as well. We already have a realtor in Oak Park and have checked out some of the properties there. One thing we noticed is that the property taxes in Oak Park are CRAZY and we could barely find a decent property within our budget. We haven't been to Evanston yet.

So before we move any further, we would like to ask anyone who is familiar with the areas to offer us ANY information or comparison about properties, taxes, schools, transportation, etc. ANY information will be highly appreciated. Thank you in advance!

Ben

 
Old 12-17-2011, 11:41 PM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 25,070,616 times
Reputation: 6183
Chicago and Cook County taxes are crazy because more than half the state population lives there. By and large the K-8 schools are all pretty good. The 9-12 seemed to be more problemsome. You may want to plan for a private high school in a couple of years.

I personally prefer Oak Park because it has tons of services but I suspect you get more bang for the buck in Evanston. Unless you work from home you will ultimately live where it is most convenient to where you work. Andersonville is also gay friendly but it is in the city.

With taxes being what they are you may find that renting is a good option. The only thing the londlords want is the great tenant. The Oak Park Regional Housing Center is non-profit service that can help you find suitable housing at no charge. You may also be able to get a short lease while you learn the area and search for the perfect home.

Here is a link with a ton of information: Oak Park Regional Housing Center.
 
Old 12-18-2011, 07:30 AM
 
375 posts, read 847,134 times
Reputation: 131
Oak Park is a great town with high taxes. You definitely get a lot for your money though, including a solid park district, beautiful parks, great commute to Chicago. I respectfully disagree with the comments above. OPRF is a fantastic high school. It is big, like many other Chicagoland high schools, so that is a negative. I would not plan on a private high school.
 
Old 12-18-2011, 08:26 AM
 
28,383 posts, read 67,903,744 times
Reputation: 18188
First off I disagree with the above posters recommendations for anyone moving to the region and looking for excellent schools. The only objective measure available shows that literally none of the middle schools or high schools that the OP would need are on the Illinois Honor Roll: Illinois Honor Roll - Academic Excellence Awards 2010 List Only one school from each town is on the list and those are elementary schools. If one wishes to make excuses about why those towns do not have a greater number of schools on the Honor Roll list that is your choice, but the objective facts cannot be denied... Far from being excellent, the high schools that serve both Oak Park and Evanston are, at best, deeply divided with minorities largely lagging far behind majority students in academic achievement. This is a long term trend that has proved highly resistant to intervention and one that does bode well for the ability of these schools to intervene in the educational needs of sub-groups. Evanston has gone so far as to eliminate some of its honor track classes in an effort to encourage mixing of ability levels.

In all honestly if I had a child that was bright and of a minority race I would seek out a different town altogether. The performance of top tier City of Chicago Schoolls like Northside Prep and Payton as well as the much more limited Jones is far far better, of course if you moving into the area the hoops one must jump through might might it impossible to get into these selective admissions schools. In that case I would look to another town that has all/most of its schools listed on the Honor Roll...

Secondly, in my experience the "social acceptance factor" for neighbors of those who have an alternative family / gay lifestyle in any of the desirable suburbs where parents move because of the schools that are on the Honor Rol is quite high. Now I won't say there are many outward signs of gay friendly bars or such in those towns like you'd find in north side neighborhoods like Andersonville or Lincoln Square, but if your children's education is your priority then I assume the social outlets you and your partner might seek out would be a good trade-off.

The fact is in towns with uniformly high property values the total tax bill for the least expensive home is often far lower than in towns like Oak Park or Evanston where a large number of inexpensive / under-assessed homes tend to skew taxes on desirable homes to the unaffordable range. It is almost certainly wiser to look at a modoest but comfortable home in even a "luxury" type town for both a better initial purchase value and more affordable long term taxes. The support that higher valued homes give to schools is in effect a subsidy that enriches all students...

Many / most of the desirable towns tend to have excellent commuter rail service to employment centers in Chicago's Loop, thus for many people transportation to work in Chicago is better from a suburb well served with express trains than it would be in all but a handful of spots closer to the Loop.

Finally my interactions with Oak Park Regional Housing Center have been uniformly poor. Their mission is counter to that of most sane parents. Instead of suggesting the safest most appropriate part of Oak Park they attempt to steer people unfamiliar with the area toward the portions of town where others of their skin color / demographic profile are least represented. While this may make sense if their goal is to flatten out values across the town and prop-up the least stable neighborhoods it is not what sane parents would want for their school age children. Avoid any suggestions from the OPRHC...

Last edited by chet everett; 12-18-2011 at 08:36 AM..
 
Old 12-18-2011, 09:14 AM
 
Location: Oak Park, IL
5,520 posts, read 11,969,207 times
Reputation: 3820
I actually think that a comparable house in Evanston will cost more than in Oak Park. Not sure what the relative tax burden is, but Illinois tends to have very high property taxes.

As Chet explains, both Evanston and Oak Park public school systems have a relatively high percentage of minority students compared to many other upscale suburbs. Unfortunately, in 2011, the fact remains that schools with higher minority populations tend to have lower aggregate test scores than downs that are overwhelmingly white. There are obviously exceptions to this rule. If one seeks to find a school with high aggregate test scores and AYP, the simplest way is to avoid schools with significant minority populations, as Chet appears to be recommending.

While fleeing for the outer suburbs is a time-tested and popular strategy for middle-class white families (and I would never be judgmental if a family decides this is the best choice for their kids), thankfully in Chicagoland there are viable alternatives for families who decide that they want to raise children in a more urban, more diverse environment.

Last edited by oakparkdude; 12-18-2011 at 10:28 AM..
 
Old 12-18-2011, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 25,070,616 times
Reputation: 6183
I've said many times if a parent wants their child to excel then they need to be involved with the schools starting with the teacher and principal at the kindergarten. Extend that into school projects, school programs, school sports, school homework. school board and school Superintendent until college. Take a page from Home School. "Every outing is an opportunity to learn and apply what is learned to course work.

The student body racial makeup is immaterial; it's an excuse. I was raised in one of those "you are not like them": families. It's a nasty environment that teaches the wrong lesson. What matters is the parent who is involved, course work and the school - parent relationship. What the communities can offer a family is important too. My town had a huge park district that was free. You didn't pay to use it, drive throuth it, or to use picnic space. There were free concerts, ftee movies, free Zoo Day and more.

The bottom line is eye candy is deceiving and realtors work for the commission. You do not know if you will like an area until you live in it which is why I suggested renting. Oak Park is very historical village that has been racially diverse for a very long time.

I have two grandchildren in different grades that live in a not very good school system where teachers are poorly paid. Last year one child was failing and the other barely had average grades. When Dad took over, learning took on a new meaning. Both have been on the Honor Roll all year this year.
 
Old 12-18-2011, 10:49 AM
 
Location: Oak Park, IL
5,520 posts, read 11,969,207 times
Reputation: 3820
Transportation wise, both have good public transit access to downtown Chicago. Both have commuter rail stations to Ogilvie station with frequent rush hour service and less frequent off-rush service. Both have CTA el service with 20 hrs of service per day. OP is a bit closer so the el ride is shorter than from Evanston, although Evznston has a rush hour express el. OP also has easy access to I-290, while Evanston is a few miles on congested surface streets from I-94.
 
Old 12-18-2011, 11:54 AM
 
375 posts, read 847,134 times
Reputation: 131
Here is the 2011 list of top 50 high schools:

The top 50 high schools in Illinois - Chicago Sun-Times

Note that Oak Park River Forest is ranked higher than Lyons Township (La Grange, Western Springs).

OP, for fun, take a look at scores by demographic for all schools you guys are looking at, as opposed to overall test scores. Definitely don't just rely on who passed AYP.
 
Old 12-18-2011, 01:27 PM
 
Location: Not where you ever lived
11,544 posts, read 25,070,616 times
Reputation: 6183
If OP is such a terrible place to raise a family why are millionaires, doctors and other family minded professionals living there? Shouldn't they all flee to Streeterville or a like area?
 
Old 12-18-2011, 01:28 PM
 
18 posts, read 31,367 times
Reputation: 24
Thank you very much for all the comments above! It really helps. Let me give you a little more information about my family. I am Asian and my husband is a white guy so the two kids are white too. They are 7 years old and 12 years old. So they are NOT minorities.

We know that there is a conflict between gay friendly and great schools. Andersonville and Lakeview areas are gay friendly, but the schools are not that good. We live in AZ (the dumbest and the most bigoted state) so we know how bad schools can possibly be. We are tired of being surrounded by stupid conservative people and the sh*t the teachers give us and the kids simply because we are a gay couple. My husband is a pilot based in Chicago O'Hare and I am in the process of changing career so I may go back to school after we move.
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