Education in Chicago

In this incredibly political city, public education is treated like a football. The Fifth Ward stands firmly behind the principle that a high quality education is a right for all citizens. We do not think every charter school is a bad school, but we think the system unfairly drains traditional public schools of resources. All of our schools in the ward deserve support, and it is the job of the alderman to direct maximum resources to every school. Further, the integration of democratic practices in public education is also critical and local school councils should be supported through a special liason in the alderman’s office to assist LSCs whenever possible. Private schools are also an essential part of the school mix in the Fifth Ward and should be recognized for their contributions to local education.

My proposals

  • Full support of an elected school board.
  • Implementation of a citywide moratorium on charter school development.
  • Friends and family assessments of charter schools in the ward – Scholarly research that interviews the stakeholders for eah charter school in the ward to determine which are benefitting the community.
  • Neighborhood networking of elementary schools – The schools in each of our neighborhoods have to have a relationship to one another that translates into choice for parents. Development in the schools should be coordinated and informed by what is going on in the other local schools.
  • Campaign of support for Hyde Park Academy – Hyde Park Academy must be recognized for its critical position in the CPS system. Through a cycle of dwindling enrollment leading to dwindling funding, Hyde Park Academy is now exhibiting many of the characteristics that have led other schools to be closed. We have to fight for this important neighborhood school to remain a school for all children.

More about schools

In education, the ability of instructors to fulfill their vocational task has been increasingly hamstrung by forces that are not concerned about education as much as power politics and which have developed a model that is more remarkable for its ability to draw money and influencers to itself than its ability to educate. There are myriad studies showing that charter schools are largely producing equivalent results with much greater resources and much less interference by local government. Meanwhile, there are profoundly negative effects that come from the presence of these schools which are allowed to pick and choose which students they will educate while public schools struggle with students who are themselves struggling with multiple barriers to education.

Charter schools were begun to create laboratories for education innovation that would then bring ideas back into the public school environment. Everyone understood when this all began that they were going to exclude kids and that they were not going to be constrained by the system of rules that has as its justification the maintenance of a system for all children. There has been such a split in the education reform movement that it is accepted that these are either the future of all public schooling or evil parasites.

What needs to happen instead is that the charters for which these schools are named must be dependent on investment back into the general public school system. The specific approaches used that lead to positive outcomes in that one school have to be replicable in public schools or these charters must be revoked and these schools transitioned to private schools, which is what so many of them are.

Meanwhile, we must recognize the forces outside of the classroom that are impeding education, and we must consider what we can do to further learning outside of the classroom context. Where there is violence, where hunger is a challenge, where there is substandard housing, children are not learning as much as they could as well as they could. When one considers the incredible talent that comes out of some of the most challenged parts of our communities, it seems impossible to deny that our children are the real secret to our success. Providing resources and preventing negative influences on young people is often far more important than the latest fashion in testing or new teaching technique.