Tuesday, September 11, 2012

In Midst of Chicago Strike, Focus Should be on Students, Choice

As the Chicago Teachers Union strike nears the conclusion of a second day, more than 400,000 students are left out of classrooms and, as a result, failing to get the education that is so fundamental to their growth.  

But even before the strike, there were far too many children trapped in failing schools that was providing them with a substandard education.

As negotiations between the CTU and city officials continue, lawmakers in Illinois and around the country would do well to take this time to think about our educational priorities. And while they sadly seem to have become collateral damage in a fight between adults, foremost among those priorities should be our children. 

And among the most important answers to that question is school choice.

If parents in Chicago—and everywhere else—had real options as to where to send their kids to school, they would have the opportunity to choose the education they feel is best for their children and, as a result, achievement, graduation rates, and college enrollment would all increase. With all options on the table, including private school choice, children, not special interests or money, would be the centerpiece of this discussion.

And Illinois has in the past seriously considered these options. Back in 2010, the Illinois Senate passed legislation that would have created a statewide voucher program, And leaders in Chicago and throughout the state continue to support vouchers. Among them:

  • Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard, who believes “it’s a matter of making sure the dollars follow children. If 500 traditional [Chicago Public School Students] would go to the parochial schools…the proportional share (of dollars) should to the school actually educating those children.”
  • Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza, who for voted in favor of the voucher bill while serving in the State House in 2010
  • State Senator James Meeks (D), who sponsored the voucher legislation in 2010
  • The Chicago Tribune, which has printed dozens of editorials in support of bringing private school choice to the Windy City, including one as recently as two days ago
Expanding educational options in Illinois is inevitable. Private school choice is already helping hundreds of thousands of students in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and nearby Indiana’s statewide voucher program recently doubled its enrollment in just its second year to more than 8,500 students.  And in Wisconsin, the Racine Parental Choice Program hit its 500 student enrollment cap and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is serving more than 23,000 children. 
The strikes in Chicago are sadly about politics, and not children. It’s time to allow children from low-income families and those stuck in failing Chicago schools to have the chance to attend the school that will best suit their needs. After all, if choice is okay for countless Chicago politicians and public school officials, why is it not okay for everyone else?

To further highlight the disconnect between the strike and the kids, take a look at this video from last year from CTU President Karen Lewis, in which she disparages Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MSG

No comments:

Post a Comment