Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ald. Moore on Charters

Interesting Exchange between Ald. Moore and Activist on Charter Schools


If life were only as simple as you make it seem. Your "solid research" is contradicted by a host of other studies that point to the opposite conclusion--that charters, as a whole, have actually out performed their traditional counterparts. I don't pretend to be an expert on this issue, but I do know this. Some charters do an amazing job at educating kids, some do a horrible job and many fall in between. Some neighborhood schools are great, some are horrible and many fall in between. 

>Over the years as alderman I've discovered that I can't change the 
>world. I can't even change the Chicago Public School system. But I 
>can have an impact on my ward. I can do things that improve the 
>lives of the 56,000 people I represent. Working to keep CMSA in my 
>neighborhood when they outgrew their original St. Jerome's location 
>six years ago is one of my proudest accomplishments. As a result, 
>thousands of families in my neighborhood (the 600 that have children 
>enrolled in the school now and the thousands more that have had 
>children go through the school in the past ten years) were given an 
>educational choice for their children. And from both anecdotal and 
>objective evidence, the vast majority of families are happy with the 
>choice they made. 

>CMSA strongly promotes their students going on to college. Well over 
>80% do just that, an amazing statistic for a school whose population 
>is 96% low income. Hundreds, if not thousands, of children went on 
>to college after graduating from CMSA. Many were the first kids in 
>their families to do so. And CMSA devotes a full-time staff person 
>to following up with those kids to help encourage them to stay in 
>college once they get there. What other Chicago public school does 

>I'm trying my best to avoid the ideological debate going on between 
>the left and the right over private vs. public education. Lew, 
>you're welcome to engage in that debate as much as you'd like, but 
>I'm more concerned about what works for the people I represent. If a 
>school in my neighborhood offers the parents in the 49th Ward a 
>quality education and a better future for their kids, you can bet 
>I'm going to stand up and fight for it. 

>Lew, you mention the union battle that took place at CMSA a few 
>years back. The school ran into a rough patch, and as often happens 
>when management doesn't communicate well or address legitimate 
>grievances of its employees, a union stepped in to offer those 
>employees a better way. As you know, I publicly called upon the CMSA 
>administration to accept the "card check" and allow the union to 
>represent the teachers without a formal secret ballot vote. The 
>school took a different approach and called for a secret ballot. 
>They went to court, as was their right, and ultimately prevailed 
>when the court ruled that a secret ballot was required for the union 

>During the court battle, the CMSA administration righted their ship, 
>changed principals, and addressed the legitimate concerns of the 
>teachers and staff. As a result, support from the teachers for the 
>union greatly diminished to the point where the union organizers 
>didn't even call for a vote. I have heard nothing to suggest that 
>the CMSA administration did anything underhanded during that battle 
>other than to litigate and ultimately prevail in court, and, much 
>more importantly, fix things that had gone awry in the 
>administration of the school. 

>The school is now back on course with a solid principal. Test scores 
>are going back up again and I have heard nothing to suggest the 
>teachers are unhappy or otherwise dissatisfied with the new 
>leadership at the school. 

>Finally, Lew, you can question my assertion that I never hear 
>complaints about CMSA and charters in general from the low income 
>parents in my community. OK, don't take my word for it. But what you 
>can't contradict is the fact that 600 kids are currently enrolled at 
>CMSA and thousands more have attended the school in the past and 
>that the overwhelming majority of those kids come from low income 
>families. Are you absolutely certain that you know what's better for 
>those kids than the parents that send them to that school? 
Ald. Joe Moore


>Lew Rosenbaum from Rogers Park East Just now 

Dear Ald. Moore,
>Paragraph one: I've given some examples of researchers. I can give 
>more. There is no good research I have seen tha confirms your 
>beliefs and would appreciate your citing (as Mr. Schiessl asks as 
>well). What I have seen is highly suspect material funded by charter 
>school partisans like Michele Rhee, Bill Gates, the Eli Broad 
>foundation and more. Even our own commercial club of Chicago, for 
>whose politics I have not a high regard, pointed out that Chicago's 
>experience with charters and with turnarounds does not bear out any 
>cause to celebrate charter achievements. 

>Paragraph two and on: I agree you can't change the world. No one of 
>us can. But the debate about public vs. private is central to our 
>own communities. You have said that charters can co-exist with 
>public schools, but the experience here, in this ward, as well as 
>throughout the city and country emphasize the opposite. 50 schools 
>were closed this year. The reason? "Underutilization" was what the 
>school board said. How does a school that was teeming with students 
>last year become underutilized this year. One part of that comes 
>from building charters right next to public schools and turning 
>public funds over to them. The 50,000 kids in charters in Chicago 
>this year would have been in the public schools most likely. Of 
>course there are other factors, but that is one major one. Their not 
>being in public schools limits what the public schools can offer. 
>That's been said by others in this thread, I won't repeat it more 
>than that. So to be proud of bringing to the neighborhood a 
>corporate private school (you may not realize this but the Concept 
>Schools are the largest chain of charters in the country) but you 
>will also have to acknowledge therefore the effect that it has on 
>public education. 

>If the charter schools in our neighborhood are doing a better job of 
>educating our kids than the public schools, then we need to rethink 
>our commitment to public education, not undercut it even more. I'm 
>guessing that you must have read something of the work of Jonathan 
>Kozol, if you consider yourself a progressive alderman. Kozol does 
>not write about ideal public education vs. nasty private education. 
>He has written for half a century about how our society has created 
>segregated, unequal, terrible education in the urban north. The 
>solution, he argues, is not to divide education into education for 
>the haves and education for the have-nots. But that is what we have 
>done, and when schools have to have a toilet paper drive because 
>they haven't enough money to pay for toilet paper, that shows 
>something about society's value of our children. I read your piece 
>about the apple lady at Sullivan, and good for her and for Sullivan. 
>But what about the budget shortfall that Sullivan faces, perhaps in 
>part because UNO expanded to 9th grade this year? 

>Concerning the union battle at CMSA, yes, I am aware of the effort 
>you made there, a bit late but welcome nevertheless. But lets be 
>clear. I've seen you at labor rallies and so I have to assume you 
>know something about labor history. You must know that CMSA was 
>using the court battle as a delaying tactic. They had first claimed 
>to be a public school, in order to curry public favor. This is a 
>tactic used by many charters. And under those circumstances the 
>union organized within CMSA as a public school. However, when the 
>union won their election, CMSA refused to recognize the results and, 
>when directed to do so, changed their tactics and claimed instead 
>they were a private school and hence not subject to the rules under 
>which they had been organized in the past. This is standard practice 
>to avoid unionization. After years of effort, the union had to begin 
>all over again. I can't imagine how you, as a progressive who fought 
>against Walmart, could possibly condone that as righting their ship 
>and addressing the legitimate concerns of the teachers. Perhaps you 
>should call up the ACTS office (that's the charter union in case you 
>don't remember) and investigate if there are teacher complaints at 
>CMSA. That might help you to find out if there really is no 
>dissatisfaction here. 

>Lastly, I'm not questioning that you don't hear complaints from CMSA 
>parents. I'm also not questioning that our neighbors want better 
>education. I am also not questioning that, given the bad choices our 
>public servants have provided our community (note: e.g., closed 
>mental health services and underresourced educational facilities) 
>ANY choice looks better than what we have. But perhaps you should 
>listen more, do more investigation. Then you would hear other voices 
>from your low income constituency that are not satisfied with what 
>they have but want to see public education preserved and changed for 
>the better. You as an alderman have a responsibility to these 
>parents as well, to those of us whose kids are still in the public 
>schools. You may not remember what you said at the opening of the 
>UNO school in our neighborhood, but you praised the parents who had 
>chosen to enroll in the UNO school, parents who really were 
>interested in a better education for their children. That tells me 
>what you think of the rest of us and of public education. We don't 
>want a good education for our children, and therefore public 
>education, in your belief, is good enough for us. 

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