Gridlock in Chicago Underscores Importance of School Choice
Of the 402,000 students currently enrolled in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), 52,000 of them are in school this week—those attending one of the roughly 100 charter schools in the district. Who would have thought that the winners of the CPS charter school lottery this year would be the only students in school the second week of September?
The role of school choice in our public schools is one of the most debated and polarizing issues in education. However, at times like this, I can honestly say that I do not understand how people can be against a practice that puts the interests of students ahead of adults. What does this say about our education system?
This week marks the twenty year anniversary of the opening of the first public charter school, City Academy High School, in St. Paul, MN. Twenty years later, more than two million students in 41 states and the District of Columbia are attending charter schools; while over 600,000 remain on waiting lists.
The following is clear to me:
- Confidence has been lost in the ability of traditional public schools to educate our students;
- Parents, teachers, and a large portion of Americans are desperate to find a solution to improve the system; and
- There are teachers all over the country, including in Chicago Public Charter Schools that are willing to buck the status quo to ensure their students have a school to attend the second week of September.
Similar to traditional public schools, there are some charter schools that underperform. No one is protecting them or suggesting they shouldn’t be improved or even closed. However, let’s not throw stones in glass houses. Underperforming traditional public schools should face the same scrutiny and consequences as charters.
As cited in Monday’s blog post, Putting Adults Before the Kids, 90% of Black, 80% of Hispanic, and 84% of low-income 8th grade students in CPS are not proficient in math. This is tragic. Something must change, and the nearly 30 percent salary increase over two years initially requested by the teachers union is not the answer.
Options for students are critical as long as traditional public schools, like those in Chicago, continue to fail children.