What Next For Charters?

What Next For Charters?

Chicago is considering opening more charters next year even as some charter networks like UNO have struggled with conflicts and nepotism and the district has been shrinking.  Could the solutions to the current situation include both tighter financial safeguards and additional funding for charter school facility costs?

While not excusing whatever UNO may have done wrong, charter advocates tell me (off the record) that one key problem is the lack of facilities funding necessitates fundraising or pursuit of direct appropriations (which is what UNO did)

In the absence of state funding for facilities, charters usually take facilities costs out of their instructional funding, which isn't what that funding is supposed to be for.

Some other states have facilities funding for charters or other measures (credit enhancements, etc).

In the short term, I'm told that there may be some proposals to tighten things up regarding conflicts and other financial safeguards coming down the pike -- from Springfield or internally to CPS -- but we'll see if and when that happens.

Here's the WTTW segment in which Tozer, Katten, and Brackett discuss the current charter environment:


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  • The WTTW segment is a great example of how vague and meaningless some of these discussions have become. Specific schools are proposed for specific reasons. The evaluation of the desirability of these proposals doesn't fit into a packaged soundbite.
    What does fit into a television segment is Tozer wondering why Chicago isn't Singapore and Katten providing her empty catch phrases.
    The Noble expansion continues to pull students out of existing low performing/high drama high schools. This is nothing new. The same traditional high schools schools few CTU members are willing to send their own children.
    Why don't Tozer and Katten explain to the parents in Belmont Cragin why they would require local students attend Prosser without the option of Noble? Those two would never send their own children to Prosser.

  • Katten is promoting her own interests - this is the problem with the so called "parent groups", only the immediate interest of the self anointed leaders of these groups is deemed important - not what is best for the city as a whole.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Absolutely true about Katten. Pretend to represent parents when it is just one Mom's self anointed opinion. Puffed up catch phrases. Misleading statements and a complete lack of using data objectively. Truly a shame because there are parents who need better school options and their neighborhood school will never get there no matter how much money is pumped into it.

    It is not the money or the teachers. It is the parents and gang influence that doom a neighborhood school. At least with a charter school parents make an effort to get their kids away from the bad influence of gangs and students/parents who do not value education. Charters are able to instill a discipline and place expectations on parents. A neighborhood school can't do that because it is based on geography, not choice. This makes a tremendous difference in the educational environment. Not just looking at test scores, but how safe a child feels in school. Also a school culture where learning is deemed ok or even cool. So many bad schools have students who bully kids that like to learn. Learning is not cool. Charters get a shot at a different school culture.

    Charters and neighborhood schools in high crime areas should not be compared. It is apples to oranges. I think that is a futile argument. Instead, we should look at what is best for the students. If parents value education enough to get their kid into a school that has a more conducive learning environment, they should be able to. The result is the neighborhood schools get a concentrated group of kids who are really hard to teach, have parents who do not value education, and students who have a lot of challenges to overcome. Those schools should then get extra wrap around services, intervention and all that money can buy. Unfortunately, the CTU will not allow teachers to be treated or paid differently and politicians cannot promote this approach because it judges parents too much.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Agreed - the creation of more charter schools has nothing to do with capacity issues.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I wish I knew what Chicago, the county, the state and the Feds were doing to effectively eliminate the impact of gangs and poverty for these children's worlds.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Well, one way to lessen the influence of gangs (or thug behavior) within schools is to open more charter schools. Charter schools can effectively and quickly remove bad apples from the classroom. Neighborhood schools can't. This is one of the main reasons parents want charter schools.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Charters don't give the boot to gang bangin' bad apples only, they also show the door to apples who don't get good grades, apples who don't wear the correct uniform, apples who don't pay fines, and apples who don't complete their FAFSA and college apps.

    Charters can only teach apples that are compliant. They are incapable of dealing with moderately challenging apples. They are selecting their students through the application process and deselection. Let neighborhood schools do this as well and charters will disappear.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    You are right they would disappear.

    Our Constitution does not allow what you suggest for "neighborhood" schools but many parents do want a safe and rigorous learning culture for their kids. The charter school system is an imperfect but legally viable way to accommodate those parents and students.

    Btw - Charter schools cannot legally select their students - its first come first served or by lottery but you probably know that.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    Urban Prep kicks out seniors at the beginning of the second semester if they don't complete their college apps and FAFSA.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    WRONGO. There is nothing in the U.S. or State Constitution that says "neighborhood schools" cannot mimic charter schools defacto selection/deselection process. A free education through secondary school is guaranteed. Perhaps charters could provide free alternative education for students who are disruptive or problematic instead of the other way around.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    As long as one or the other keeps those kids and other parents can make a choice meaning enrollment boundaries disappear for "neighborhood" schools. Right now charters are the schools that can enforce discipline. If you want to reverse the roles that would be fine with me as well. I don't really care which of the two have to deal with the bad apples as long as they are in one place.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    The bar at which charter schools set for "bad apples" is ridiculous. Charters are incapable of dealing with normal teenage behavior. They only deal with the most submissive kids. Pitiful.

  • In reply to CPS Parent:

    I don't believe Katten's motives should be more suspect than anyone else. Everyone's concern about schools starts with the experience of family and the immediate community. I don't assume that either Katten or Tozer are insincere.
    I regret the lack of substantive discussions about actual schools in existing communities. When people promote public policy that is unacceptable for their own children they don't want to talk about specific neighborhoods and specific schools. So we hear about Finland and those evil hedge fund billionaires.

  • In reply to Donn:

    I think Ms. Katten is absolutely sincere, but parents with children in CPS inevitably advocate for themselves first.

  • I have know Ms. Katten for several years and I am totally amazed that she is being accused of promoting her own interests. She is making next to nothing for her role at Raise Your Hand considering the hours she puts in. As far as I can tell all the data she presented on WTTW was correct.

    I have said many of the same things Ms. Katten has said in relation to CPS expenditures, especially in relation to the start up costs for charter schools. In theory I guess I am an expert with a graduate degree in education and have been doing this for 20 years. But the truth is the truth and Ms. Katten has put forward that repeatedly.

    I did not want to see schools closed but I did understand the logic and the basis of the economies of scale as they relate to public education. As I have said before on this blog I and Access Living formally opposed three closings based on the impact on students with IEPs, none the less I worked formally with a CPS committee that was tracking the transfer of students with IEPs to what CPS called the welcoming schools. Raise Your Hand took a different position and opposed almost all closings based on community and parent concerns.

    The basic ideas expressed by CPS in relation to theoretical excess capacity apply to charter schools too and expanding them in the context CPS finds itself in makes very little sense. I have seen some mildly disabled students have success at some charter schools and I have seen some others pushed out the doors. I think what Ms Katten has most effectively expressed is the problem of charter expansion in the context of declining student enrollments. The concept of choice does not supersede the logic of demographics of the city and CPS can't expand charters in this context without creating yet more excess capacity. If that is just "one Mom's self anointed opinion," then from my perspective that opinion was based on pretty good foundational knowledge.

    Rod Estvan

  • In total agreement, Mr. Estvan. I can think of many, many folks out there with less than honorable motivations for their words and deeds -- Wendy Katten is not one of them.

  • Bashing the moms. So sad.

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