Most of the media coverage of the education crisis in Chicago has been around the Chicago Teacher’s Union decision to strike. Yet, that is not the only battle happening in Chicago’s education scene. Chicago’s community colleges are facing the same struggles our K-12 education system is.
Community colleges are heralded as a more economical way of obtaining a post-secondary degree, but are the city colleges receiving enough attention and direction?
A Sun Times article proclaimed that the graduation rates for the city's community colleges were double what they were 10 years ago. Great news, right? Except that they still only have a 10 percent graduation rate as of 2012. Why is it so low? Well, some of the reasons affecting failing Chicago community colleges are the same ones that affect Chicago’s failing K-12 schools.
One easy to see reason for the low graduation rates is the lack of readiness for college work. A University of Chicago study showed that even high-achieving Illinois high school graduates suffered severe setbacks in their GPAs once they entered a community college or a four-year state university, and only eight percent of Illinois high school graduates obtain a bachelor’s by age 25. Chicago is a huge chunk of Illinois’ high school graduates since it holds over 20 percent of the state’s population.
How are our children not being prepared for college level work? Because education, primary, tertiary, or college-level, is not a priority in Chicago as displayed in the below reasons.
Professors for the community colleges, like teachers, are also not treated with respect or support. The budget only allows for part-time and adjunct professors, which do not allow for professors to become acquainted with the classes in order to be able to teach them well and build established relationship with the students year after year. If charter schools keep making headway, that system will be mirrored in the K-12 education system as well.
The professors are also not unionized, and even with a full course load, they are making about $17,000 annually, a fourth of what unionized K-12 educators are making on average. To add insult to injury, the budget also does not allow for basic supplies like markers to be provided and replaced at a pace that keeps up with instruction.
Community college classes, like Chicago Public School classes, are also overfilled. Many professors complain of having to scrounge around for extra desks and chairs. Smaller class sizes have been proven beneficial to learning as it allows for more teacher student interaction. Yet, many school districts, like Chicago are faced with budget cuts, and are trying to find other ways to increase that student teacher interaction time such as longer school days. Sound familiar? Are they just going to increase class time for the city colleges too?
The issues keep following the Chicago education system and its students from K-College and beyond. Students never have adequately compensated educators, appropriate class sizes or supplies, and thus, never receive an education that allows them to achieve, which in turn, never allows the city to achieve. A world-class city should have a world-class public education system.
Check out my other posts on CTU and education: