Sun-Times editorial gets it right

In something of a breakthrough, the Sun-Times editorial board today came out against CPS’s plan to open 13 new charter schools this year. Echoing my comments in the Tribune earlier this week, today’s S-T editorial agreed that opening new, unproven schools while claiming a need to close as many as 100 existing schools doesn’t make sense, especially given the fact that overall charters are no better than regular schools.

“How exactly can CPS square that circle? We aren’t convinced it can….Charters are like regular schools – some great, some mediocre, some lousy.”

This published opinion comes on the heels of a critical piece by the local public radio station WBEZ, “Charter schools with failing grades still featured at quality schools fair”:  “A high-profile Chicago schools fair today is supposed to show off quality new schools, many of them charters….But a WBEZ analysis of the more than 100 new schools featured at the expo this year shows 34 percent of them are rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest grade given. Schools receiving the designation include campuses run by some of the largest charter networks in the city, including UNO and the Chicago International Charter School. This is the first year the district has graded charters on the same scale as traditional schools.”

“Quality choice” morphing to just “choice”?

Perhaps under pressure from the truth, and its growing appearance in the media, some charter promoters seem to be dropping the “quality” label from their sales rap. The WBEZ story quotes Phyllis Lockett: ” ‘The purpose of the (New Schools) expo is really to give parents first and foremost this notion and the sense that they do have a choice, that they should do their research,’ Lockett said. She said parents will receive guides that help them figure out what questions to ask as they shop for schools.”

In a letter to the Sun-Times published under today’s editorial, New Schools for Chicago’s Chris Butler calls it the “dignity of choice.”

I’d venture to say that having to shop for schools is about as dignified as camping out overnight at a WalMart to get a video game console. Oh, and there’s a waiting list for that, too.

 

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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.
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