Tribune: “Off with their heads!” Fire school board for saying no to charter school

Today’s Chicago Tribune editorial board fronts an attack on corporate reform’s next target: elected school boards.

Yep. The privatizers have decided that democratically-elected school boards just get in the way of “real reform” like privatization, expanding charter schools, and replacing experienced teachers with deer-in-the-headlights Teach for America kids.

PAA co-founder Leonie Haimson wrote about this in a recent Parents Across America blog post, referencing an article by Matt Miller called “First Kill All the School Boards” that argued that “local control has become a disaster for our schools.”

The Tribune calls for a “game change” in North Chicago, and wants the Illinois State Board of Education to “fire” the elected school board for refusing to hire the Chicago-based LEARN charter school network to open a new school.

The school board voted down the proposal, citing a concern about the loss of funding for the rest of the district’s schools.

Seems legitimate, given the tough economy and the cutbacks in state funding for schools.

If I were a North Chicago school board member, I would also ask about the rate of teacher turnover at LEARN, which has a 7.5 hour day and a 200 day school year. I’d review the personnel budget for the extra time as well as the lower class size the network boasts, to see if it could be supported.

Yes, LEARN’s test scores are impressive, but I might want to know more about numbers like these enrollment figures, from LEARN’s Interactive School Report Card.

2006: 60 students in 3rd grade

2007: 59 in 4th grade

2008: 41 in 5th grade

2009: 43 in 6th grade

2010: 36 in 7th grade

2011: 32 in 8th grade

LEARN had only one school between 2002 and 2008, when it opened a second school beginning in the primary grades, so that would not have affected the number of 5th graders and older at that point. So, apparently the original LEARN school had an elementary “dropout rate “of about 50%, from 60 to 32 students. What happened? Did LEARN “lose” some less-wanted students as is so common in charter schools?

But the Tribune demands that State Superintendent Chris Koch overrule the school board and approve the charter (yes, he can do that!). And, since the Trib considers it a capital crime to oppose any charter school, they also demand that Koch remove the school board and install a “new authority” (I guess he can do that, too).

Maybe the Red Queen is available. That would be a real “game” changer, for folks of a similar temperament who think education is just another game.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.