Joyful third grader at last freed from public school prison

A mother and her two children labor at home. This is not Mia and Valerie described in the story below. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

A mother and her two children labor at home. This is not Mia and Valerie described in the story below. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Are public schools trying to stop students from transferring to private schools? Perhaps so.

I’m not using people’s or school district’s real names because there would be retaliation. But I know this story is true.

Mia is a lively and sociable third grader. At least she was until her public school kicked her and her classmates out of the classroom. Since then, she had spent months at home, seemingly tied to a computer to get a second- or third-rate eduction.

Her cheerfulness disappeared. She cried because she missed her friends and the personal interaction of the classroom. She didn’t want to do it anymore.

Her mother, Valerie, was frightened. Her child was changing before her eyes. She wasn’t herself. She was becoming lethargic and less interested in things that she used to enjoy. She pouted when she had to get out of bed in the morning, no longer the person who excitedly greeted each day.

The school district clung to its stubborn and unscientific insistence that in-classroom learning was unsafe. It had discussed re-opening the schools, but prospective dates kept getting pushed back. It began to look like classrooms would be closed indefinitely.

Valerie began looking for a private school that would take her and restore Mia to her former, happy self.

It was a long and arduous search. Some schools weren’t taking any new students; they had been filled with other students fleeing the straitjacket of remote learning. Other schools weren’t what she want  for her child.

Then she found the right one, perfect for Mia.

Enter Catch 22.

The new, private school reasonably wanted to find out all it could about the prospective student, Mia. Her grades, her behavior, her sociability, her health. Recommendation and observations from Mia’s public school teachers. All was needed before Mia would be admitted.

Shouldn’t be a problem. Mia was a good student, sociable and motivated. But when Valarie approached the public schools office, she was told they would not provide the transcripts until….Mia’s computer used for remote instruction was returned to the school.

Well, there’s a problem. Mia could not enter the new school until her transcripts were examined by the new school. But the school would not send the transcripts to the new school until Mia left the old school and returned the computer. Catch 22 for sure.

A frustrated Valarie would not give up. She did a work-around, getting Mia’s grades “informally” sent to the new school. Sympathetic teachers wrote good recommendations for Mia. Persistence paid off; the private school said they had enough information to conclude that Mia would be a good addition to the school.

That settled and Mia admitted, Valarie returned the computer to the old school, along with an ear-full. Her rational complaints were met with the usual bureaucratic and condescending response. The computer has to be returned because “it’s policy.” Which is to say, “it is what it is.” Which is no explanation at all.

Mia’s first day at the private school was nothing short of spectacular. Students and the teacher greeted Mia enthusiastically. Welcome posters were hung. When Valarie walked into the school on the first day, the principal greeted her and knew her name.

Mia was nearly beside herself  for getting into an actual classroom with new friends and an attentive teacher. Upon her return home, Mia told her Mom that she learned more that day in school than anytime. She was looking forward to meeting new friends. Mia’s smile and enthusiasm returned almost instantly.

It was as if she was freed from a prison. One that was her own home where she had been confined by people she never met. By people who ignored the hurt they were causing her, her friends and classmates. These arrogant regulators who are punishing the children and her parents are either incompetent, fools or locked into a political agenda and ideology.

Upon reflection, Valarie has come to believe that the rule about returning the computer as a condition for releasing the transcripts was intentionally designed to reduce the flight of students out of the public school system. Thousands of students who were able to break the bureaucratic shackles in the district have transferred to other schools. Students and parents have rejoiced in their freedom.

They also escaped the dire physical and mental health consequences of locking up children at precisely the time when they need to learn socialization and other skills needed to succeed in life. The CDC has underscored research that in-person learning is safe and that remote learning is destructive,

The school board, mayors and governors who continue to ignore this are immoral. Especially so are the teachers unions that so brazenly fight in-school instruction. How long will this be allowed to continue? This is the most pressing civil rights issue of our time.

Filed under: Education, Health

Tags: COVID-19, school closing


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  • I contributed to a covid fund raiser at a Catholic HS. Over $400K was raised. It went to help pay tuition for out of work parents. A big part also went to CPS students who transferred in. I doubt if any will want to go back to CPS. No metal detectors, no cops, no gangs, dress code, but not uniforms, conduct rules explained and enforced, nicer facilities, and better learning atmosphere. And at a cost about half as much per student as at CPS. If given opportunity, why CPS HS?

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    CPS spends $16k per high school student. Which Catholic HS has a per student cost of $8k?

    Yes, I was taught at a Catholic HS. It was nice. The school could turn away people who couldn't afford the tuition and could easily expel students they didn't want. Why wouldn't it be better?

    I wonder what the cost per student will be if 10% of the students in CPS high schools start trying to transfer in? What will happen to the price of tuition if we provide CPS parents with a voucher for $16k to spend on a private high school? Do you think the price will still be half what CPS pays?

    I wonder what would have happened to those parents who pay tuition if that fundraiser would have only raised $200k? At 'only' $8k per student, that $400k pays for the tuition of 50 kids. If a 'big part' went to CPS students, that amounts to 25 kids.

    Note also that that $16k or so that CPS spends includes things like meals for poor kids. Does that Catholic HS number includes that? It also includes education for those with severe disabilities. Most Catholic schools don't have any programs for students like that, because the cost per student is SIGNIFICANTLY higher for those students. So, families who have a child with disabilities have no choice but to go to a public school, thus letting the Catholic school brag about how they are able to keep costs down. That also includes expenses like speech therapy, etc. for students who need it. Again, does the Catholic HS even include programs like that, much less include the cost in their 'cost per student' number?

    I guess 'why CPS HS' is because it is the only option for a HUGE percentage of the population. Was your comment really supposed to sound like a credible comparison between the two?

  • Yes, the actual cost per student is $2000 more than the tuition. And, yes, for every additional student transferring in, an additional $2000 is needed. Thanks to generous alumni, successful fundraisers, and many multiples of endowments, sufficient funds have been available without touching the principal on the endowments. Tuition grants are based on need and no one, including transfers, gets a total free ride. Some meals are provided and there is van pickup and drop off available for students in gang territories. Some disabilities can be accommodated, but CTU has really stuck it to parents with severely disabled children. Between 25 and 30% of alumni contribute yearly. How many CPS grads kick back to their schools?

  • In reply to Get out of IL now!:

    > Some disabilities can be accommodated, but CTU has really stuck it to parents with severely disabled children.

    Really? How? I'm curious, which disabilities are accommodated? Like, a kid with a mild case of ADHD can get a 501 plan? How about a child with Downs who needs their OWN highly trained instructor? Do the kids who need speech therapy get the therapy from the school? Or do the taxpayers pay for it so the school can brag about how cheap the tuition is (which hides the actual cost per student)? And, I'm not sure what your remark about CTU sticking it to the kids with disabilities has to do with it. If the private school you are touting actually provided equivalent services, which also still keeping costs lower, maybe those kids wouldn't depend so much on the CTU, maybe? And what does the school do with the kids with behavioral issues? Do they just get kicked to the public school, so the taxpayer can pick up the tab and the private school can brag about the cheap education?

    Is it nice of them to give a few rides to kids who live in gang territories? I wonder, what percent of those kids do they give rides to? It's nice of them to help a few kids, but, again, the taxpayers actually put a school in the neighborhood and then have to pay for the security. I'm not saying they do a good job, but its a bit misleading, don't you think, to brag about how cheaply the private school does it when they don't have to offer the service in the first place?

    > How many CPS grads kick back to their schools?

    I don't understand that question. My guess is 'all of them', either by directly paying property taxes or by paying rent to a landlord who then used that rent to pay property taxes. Seriously, what point did you think you were making with that remark?

  • Retaliation? From whom? The child was given the computer to do her assignments from her CPS teachers. Why does she have the right to keep it? This is the most pressing civil rights issue of our time? Aren't you hyper-ventilating a bit here?

    Putting the issue in the context of the pandemic, despite the science and data that you rightfully cite, there remains legitimate concerns about reopening schools when a school district or a teachers' union feels that there are not enough safe measures and resources in place. Your opinion, informed as it may be, is still an opinion. To call someone who disagrees with you wrong, is fair enough. But to call them immoral is simply demonization

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Not just immoral but criminal. The harm the union and administrators who are ignoring the science is deep and permanent. What, pray tell are the "legitimate concerns?" It is a civil rights issue because children have right to a quality education and those who for their own selfish reasons are denying children that right are stripping them of that right. By the way, you misread the post. She didn't claim a right to keep the computer. She was protesting the catch-22 of having to return the computer (while she's still in school) before the school would forward her transcripts. That you so badly misread this should tell me something about your reading comprehension or your determination to twist what I'm writing.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    By no means, Dennis, did I intend to twist your words. So you write in your response that Valerie did not claim the right to keep the computer. In other words, she had not right to keep it from its rightful owner, CPS. If she had, she would not have been on the horns of a dilemma. And CPS would have released her daughter's transcripts. No court of law would have ruled it was unreasonable for the CPS to condition the release of the transcripts in the first place. That the girl, as you wrote, was "still in school' has no bearing on her mother's obligation to return property that she herself admits she had no right to keep.

    I appreciate your concern about my reading comprehension. I have the same concerns about clarity of your writing.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    I meant to say :"If she had returned it,..."

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    > It is a civil rights issue because children have right to a quality education

    Do they also have a 'right' to quality healthcare?

  • I have a number of questions about this story. First, it is based on anonymous sources, something you have condemned in the past when other news reporters have used them. It does not even identify the public school system being condemned. When your condemnation of the school system's actions as being "immoral" was challenged, you doubled down and called them, "Not just immoral but criminal." Your elevated hyperbole causes me to ask: What crime? Or are you just using the term as a figure of speech to show how angry you are?

  • Is it not a crime to block a person's rights? I didn't identify because I know this case to be true. I guess you'll just have to trust me like the left trusts everything in the Washington Post and New York Times that is sourced anonymously. From sources that have something to personally gain from painting a story. I didn't identify the school because I know how it operates; retaliation would come.

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    This is so representative of the far right today. You slanderously call something a crime but refuse to identify the crime, "because I know this case to be true." Then you defend unsourced reporting about unnamed malefactors by claiming that liberals do the same thing. Dennis, this is not reporting, it is propaganda!

  • In reply to Dennis Byrne:

    So, you've decided that anonymous reporting is perfectly ethical, then, right?

    Otherwise, you wouldn't do it?

    Do you feel a little silly doing something, admitting you are doing something, and then in the same breath insult the left for doing the thing you are doing?

  • In reply to dave77:

    If you don't understand the difference as I explained above, I can't help you.

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