Overstating Charters?

While CPS is being accused of overstating enrollment declines and under-utilization levels at city schools, charter opponents (and perhaps even the media) can be accused of overstating the level of "privatization" in the form of charter and contract schools.  Day after day, all we hear about is charter schools and charter expansion.  It's presented as if they're EVERYWHERE.  But that's not the case.

The latest report from the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools notes that there are several districts with high numbers and percentages of students served by charters -- but CPS is not on those lists.

See below for some examples of where things stand in other cities, and a link to a Hechinger Report story about the current state of affairs.

New Orleans Public Schools (Louisiana), 76 percent

Detroit Public Schools (Michigan), 41 percent

District of Columbia Public Schools, 41 percent

Kansas City, Missouri School District (Missouri), 37 percent

Flint City School District (Michigan), 33 percent

Gary Community School Corporation (Indiana), 31 percent

St. Louis Public Schools (Missouri), 31 percent

Cleveland Metropolitan School District (Ohio), 28 percent

Albany City School District (New York), 26 percent

Dayton Public Schools (Ohio), 26 percent

San Antonio Independent School District (Texas), 26 percent

Indianapolis Public Schools (Indiana), 25 percent

Roosevelt School District 66 (Arizona), 25 percent

Toledo Public Schools (Ohio), 25 percent

Youngstown City Schools (Ohio), 25 percent

Adams County School District 50 (Colorado), 23 percent

Grand Rapids Public Schools (Michigan), 23 percent

The School District of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), 23 percent

Milwaukee Public Schools (Wisconsin), 22 percent

Phoenix Union High School District (Arizona), 22 percent

Charter schools expanding rapidly in more U.S. cities Hechinger Report






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  • According to NAPE the Chicago Public Schools has the 5th highest number of enrolled students in public charter schools in the nation. CPS: charter enroll- 44,870 students, non-charter enroll- 358,515, total CPS enroll- 403,385. CPS public charter market- 11%.

  • But charters are expanding and have been for a number of years. CPS has added about 75-80 charters over the last 7 or 8 years. One can say that charters have increased at CPS by over 500% since 2000 and would not be incorrect.

  • sure, but still 10-12 percent of students, not 20 or 30 or 40 or 50

  • That's an interesting list. What jumps out at you? Do these districts listed share anything in common?

  • It's true that CPS has projected that it will have this year about 13% of its students in charter schools and this is a lower percentage than some of the school districts that Alexander has listed. (The percentage I am using is based on estimates contained in the CPS FY 13 budget and not 20th day numbers. 53,000 charter students in a total enrollment of 400,900 from ISBE's 2012 report card).

    I see the point being made by Alexander. The bigger issue in my opinion is to what degree did CPS charter schools increase their enrollment by effectively destroying the Archdiocese school system in Chicago and has that game run its course?

    A RAND Corporation study focusing on the impact of charter schools in Michigan found that private schools were taking a bigger hit from charter school competition than traditional public schools on a student for student basis. “Private schools will lose one student for every three students gained in the charter schools,” the study concluded. Ronald Nuzzi, director of the Alliance for Catholic Education Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame asserted that charter schools “are one of the biggest threats to Catholic schools in the inner city, hands down. How do you compete with an alternative that doesn’t cost anything?”

    Between 1984 and 2004, 130 Catholic elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago closed completely or merged with other schools; 110 of these schools were located within the Chicago city limits. There have been additional closures since then too. The best study of the collapse of Chicago's Catholic schools is " Catholic Schools, Urban Neighborhoods, and Education Reform" MF Brinig, NS Garnett - Notre Dame Law Review, 2010 - nd.edu

    In this excellent article we can read this passage that links charter schools to the collapse of Catholic education in Chicago:

    "Within individual school closure debates, Archdiocesan school
    officials repeatedly emphasized the critical importance of the support
    and leadership provided by the priest who is the pastor of the parish
    affiliated with the targeted school. Sr. M. Paul McCaughey, the Superintendent
    of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese, suggested to us that
    the most important factor in distinguishing whether schools of similar
    socioeconomic composition closed was the pastor-school relationship.
    Harried, financially strapped priests who wish to “unload” a school
    often get their way. Pastors may see the school as an unnecessary
    drain on scarce resources, which must also go toward paying salaries
    for the parish staff as well as, among other things, utilities and upkeep
    on aging church buildings, which may hold architectural and historic
    value but frequently have experienced decades of delayed maintenance.
    Sr. McCaughey offered several recent anecdotal accounts of
    extern priests (that is, priests serving Chicago parishes who are from
    other dioceses or foreign countries) who lacked a strong commitment
    to Catholic education generally and their associated schools in particular.
    In several of these cases, the students in the school were not, by
    and large, members of the parish, and the parish members did not, by
    and large, live in the neighborhood. These priests tended to see the
    schools as unnecessary burdens and the school buildings a potential
    source of revenue. If the school is closed, the pastor has the option of
    selling or leasing the building—often for use as a charter school.
    Archdiocesan officials explained that the incentives created by school
    closures were a source of concern, because the parish (rather than the
    Archdiocese) keeps any revenue from the lease or sale of the school

    I think there are really complex questions about how much more CPS charter schools can expand in the city given demographics and the fact that they have already taken huge numbers of inner city students away from the Archdiocese school system in Chicago. Many families that have enrolled their children in some of Chicago's charter schools are looking for the structure and discipline of a private religious school without the cost, but the pool of those families can't be unlimited. I know the CTU and some community based organizations see students attending traditional schools as the charters targets, I am not sure that is the case.

    Charters have not done well recruiting students from above the poverty line. There are some interesting examples in relation to this issue, Noble Street Charter's main campus located at Noble and Augusta sits in a community area statistically composed of 9,252 households. Of these households 5,625 had incomes over $45,000 a year and therefore if these households had children they had little chance of qualifying for either free or reduced lunch. Using this data if Noble Street were able to heavily attract families from the income brackets living around the high school into its lottery it would likely have only around 40% or 50% low income students, but in 2011 this Noble Street campus was 91.7% low income. This charter campus is about the highest performing charter high school in the city, if it can't bring in middle class families it simply can't be done.

    UNO doesn't have many families above the low income line either and at least one third of Hispanic families in Chicago are above the low income line. CICS has a school with about 32% of its enrollment above the poverty line which is about as high as it goes for CPS charters. So in terms of the majority of Chicago households which are above the poverty line charter schools do not at this time have much appeal.

    The demographic that charters are appealing to are low income minority working families and this is one of the socio-economic subgroups that is decline in Chicago. Over the long run continuing charter school expansion could very well lead to cannibalization of existing charter schools and fiscal collapse of existing charters. If that is competition then it's clearly a form of insanity.

    Rod Estvan

  • What's disturbing about Russo's equivocation here is that the WBEZ piece was criticizing specific numbers put out by CPS on underutilization. So there is the possibility of having a real discussion about what the actual number is. If the numbers matter, that matters. But Russo does not cite any specific claims by "charter opponents (and perhaps even the media)" in what I guess is his attempt to neutralize, if not to distract from, a potentially damaging bit of news for the champions of privatization.

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