The Debate Over School Choice

The Chicago Tribune hosted a panel to discuss whether charter schools are part of the solution or part of the problem.

The debate over the impact of charter schools is prominent both across the country and closer to home in Chicago. Are charter schools part of the solution for struggling public school systems, or are they part of the problem for the struggles?

The Chicago Tribune, as part of its "A New Plan of Chicago" program, hosted a panel debating the merits of school choices and charter schools.

Four panelists, each with a different viewpoint on the issue. It made for a very spirited debate.

The four panelists were Jitu Brown, national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance; Cinda Klickna, president of the Illinois Education Association (IEA); Dr. Beth Purvis, a leader of Chicago International Charter School (CICS); and Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Acadamies.

“I maintain that across the country and in Chicago we have a failing public school system, not failing public schools,” Brown said.

In Chicago the problem of school choice is cyclical. Charter schools were formed to give disadvantaged students a better opportunity at getting accepted into and then graduating from college. But critics of charters say in the process charter schools also have destroyed neighborhood public schools by siphoning off the best students, leaving the schools to struggle to meet achievement standards. By attempting to solve one problem and get more students prepared for college, they say charter schools have adversely affected other public school students.

Yet even Brown, who is a proponent for neighborhood public schools, is not entirely against charter schools.

“We are not against charter schools in principal,” Brown said. “There are things we can learn from charters that can aid neighborhood schools. But charters aren’t the silver bullet. The intention of public education is that every child has the chance for world-class education in their neighborhood…some charters destabilize the neighborhood school.”

For full coverage of the event, including a video stream, check out the link to Reboot Illinois' website here.

» This article appears on all Patch Chicago sites. The views expressed in this post are those of Reboot Illinois and do not reflect those of Patch or its editors.

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Bernard Johnson May 27, 2014 at 12:55 AM
Let's face it, Illinois is provincial and Midwest-opic. In reviewing the universities that this year's crop of graduates of Deerfield High-school {the # 1 rated truly public high-school in Illinois} will be attending you WON'T find ANY at: Harvard Princeton Columbia Stanford Georgetown the College of William and Mary the University of Virginia Johns Hopkins Vanderbuilt Emory the University of California at Berkely the University of California at San Diego the University of California at Davis Brown Colgate Barnard Bryn Mawr Scripps Smith Vassar Wellesley MIT Cal-Tech Duke Rice Carnegie Melon Rensselaer Polytechnic Texas A&M Baylor The United States Military Academy at West Point The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis The United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs The United States Coast Guard Academy at New London etc, etc, etc. It's remarkable - when you stop to look and think about it! The State of Illinois is in such financial distress that a significant percentage of students entering the U of I at Champaign/Urbana [the sole outstanding university in the State's system} are non-residents and/or international students. Only 78% of undergraduates and 1/3rd of graduate students at the U of I are from Illinois! Non-residents are charged double the tuition and international students even more. Though the Illinois constitution requires the state to provide the primary funding for public education, in reality the state provides about 20% [not 51+%]. When you look at the net costs for Illinois' students to attend out of state universities [public and/or private], they can attend universities that are equal to or less costly than the U of I, have smaller class-sizes and a greater statistical probability of securing their degree in four years, and those are things to think about. At the same time, the provincialism of where students from the top high-schools in Illinois choose to attend is rather remarkable. Obviously, the counselors in schools like Deerfield, Highland Park, Stevenson and the other top high-schools in Illinois aren't networked with the better schools on either coast and students are shooting low - at least lower than they could and/or should be shooting for. Among the consequences of our best and brightest being Midwest-opic, but, with many being precluded from attending one of the three viable universities in the state [the U of C, Northwestern and/or the U of I at Champaign] we - in Illinois, see most of our best and brighest leave the state, though not for the finer schools on either coast. The demographics of where our best and brighest choose to attend college is most enlightening and of significant consequence{s} to the State of Illinois. Interesting.


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