& a report on Heidi Stevens' marathon effort, Songs of Good Cheer, a Steve & Garry anniversary and more
Eric, there is a lot to unpack here in you piece about Stacy Davis Gates but I will just make a few points here. First, the reaction to her decision to send her son to a private school (that surely pays teachers lower than the CTU would demand) is that she has not just been an opponent of vouchers and charter schools, she has loudly called anyone a racist that supports even trying them, even though the beneficiaries of most of these programs are minority children. Second, you end by suggesting that the solution to poor public schools is "put brainpower and our education tax resources into making public schools as successful and enriching as we can". From the George Bush/Edward Kennedy "no child left behind" to the Obama and Arnie Duncan attempts to improve public schools through charters and competition, there has been a lot of brainpower and tax dollars put toward trying to improve public schools, especially in the inner cities, and the outcomes have been marginally positive, at best. CTU teachers are more highly paid and CPS spends more per pupil than many of the highly performing suburbs. No one seems to be able to figure out how to solve the problem of poor schools. You correctly stated that "students whose parents are literally invested in their children's education are more involved in encouraging, supporting and disciplining them". No one will publicly blame poor parenting for failing schools and our high crime rate but positive parenting is the "secret sauce" to improving both. Maybe it is parent education where we need to invest more "brainpower and tax dollars".
I agree completely with your argument against using tax dollars to support non public schools. Thanks for your solid points on this issue.
I find the defense of Stacey Gates confusing at best. Not everyone is hypocritical about leading one type of life while denying things to others. Besides, it's a weak defense. It assumes that no one should try to achieve something better because these things might be denied others. There are people in life that have actually made things better for themselves while trying to make them better for others. Gates and the entire union have been railing against school choice and vouchers. She could easily have said that she wanted something better for her child and wanted the same opportunities for others who saw their children not being educated in the public schools. This is not my view. I would rather see a lot of improvement in the public schools for the very reasons Eric mentions. But there is no defense for the the hypocrisy of Gates
Very much agree with Eric on the "school choice" thing. It is not a systemic solution. This is what drives me nuts about it. The logical end point of it is a free market in schools financed by vouchers. This, I think, would be a disaster for the reasons Eric suggests. Some schools are going to score a lot worse than others on tests. This is overwhelmingly a matter of the different groups of students served by those schools and the differing issues affecting them.
55% to 45% is considered a "resounding" victory in a political election. But we call it "close" in the great pizza cut debate? And I think we need to see the formula used to determine that "superior cheese to crust ratio". Methinks the answers lie in personal preference...period...and party cut won handily.
Just a note of appreciation for the tune of the week archives. I often don't listen when I first read the newsletter, but it's a wonderful way to spend half an hour with the earphones later.
Would suburbanites be okay with a voucher program for low-income Chicagoans to attend their public schools? I believe at least some of those districts allow students from outside their district to attend if they pay enough. I would not be surprised to see support for the idea if the suburban district were paid the per-student *operating* budget for the students sent to them as long as there is no change to powers of their school boards and no change to union representation.
CPS provides school choice for high school. It seems to me that the arguments against vouchers for private schools would all apply to high school choice. Also the premier magnate schools get to cherry pick students from across the district to make their average test scores high relative to what they are actually doing in the classrooms. Would CPS be better off sticking strictly to attendance area high schools?
I’m curious to know the opinion of most readers concerning Axios Chicago. Personally I found that it was initially a cultural fluff blog that concerned itself with a rather narrow age group and income level.
But recently they have tackled some of the “important” issues in Chicago in an effort to validate their journalistic cred, while remaining basically the same.
And when I compare it to other Chicago-centric journals the come off as rather shallow and unsophisticated.
Not that I need sophistication, but I think they could do better on city be reporting.
Re Vouchers and the potential consequences, a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education provided a graphic that identified the percentages of students with disabilities attending various categories of higher ed institutions. In 4-year public institutions, students who register some type of disability comprise at least 3% of the student body in 56% of the 739 schools that reported. In 2-year public institutions, students who register some type of disability comprise at least 3% of the student body in 39% of the 825 schools that reported. In 4-year private nonprofit institutions, students who register some type of disability comprise at least 3% of the student body in 53% of the 1,324 schools that reported. In 4-year FOR-PROFIT institutions, students who register some type of disability comprise at least 3% of the student body in 9% of the 292 schools that reported. When profit enters the picture, students who need more services are not a priority.
The school choice debates are always a mess. Vouchers always are implied 'religious' options - not always the case. It'll lead to the downfall of public schools - not likely. I can see the disparity on lower income not having the lion's share of use - with more middle and upper income people sending their children to different schools. Maybe a maximum standard of living income - slightly over poverty level. "Conyears-Ervin..." like taking candy from a baby, LOL. "Squares v Slices" - So you don't put much faith in the results. Have you tried calling around and finding missing votes to get an edge?
Say what you will in defense of Gates, there is no way around the evident hypocrisy of denouncing charter schools for thee but enrolling my kid in one for ME. Old proverb: "To thine own self be true." Just don't adopt a saintly posture you're unwilling to live up to, in which case you become a hypocrite.
This entire issue would not be one if Chicago Public Schools maintained the top-to-bottom and center-out rigor that parents seek when turning to charter schools. Yes, a few are willing to placate their uppityness by avoiding having their kid mingling with the commoners, then backing & filling, trying to make it seem otherwise. But they are in the inconsequential minority.
It all makes me grateful that I went to public school in San Diego, with two high schools serving the entire city most democratically. Rigorous teaching. Academic & Shop Skills taught side-by-side on the same school grounds, avoiding implied hierarchical implications. Activity-rich to a mind-boggling degree compared to bare-bones Chicago schools. Ultra democratic, with student bodies made up of whites, blacks, Chinese, Greeks, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans, Philippinos, et al. No problems. No gangs. With declared majors like in college. With football, baseball, basketball & wrestling teams. With college-level halftime entertainment at football games. ROTC for kids wanting a career in the military. Elective studies. Extra-curricular options galore. And a gorgeous, lushly landscaped campus. I didn't know how good I had it until, after graduating, I moved to Chicago and saw how dreary, sterile, and limited its high schools are.
My husband interviews for one of the Ivies. Private and Catholic schools do NOT do better than suburban public schools in preparing students for higher education. Catholic schools do appreciably worse; perhaps because their teachers are poorly paid and they offer far fewer AP and Honors courses. (As a side note, one of my children has been a graduate TA at the University of Illinois and the University of Washington. They found Illinois students, on the whole, to be better prepared for college work. So folks should stop reflexively trashing everything Illinois)
A very interesting conversation about school choice that I will not weigh in on. Well, maybe a little. If the head administrator at a hospital that is ranked lower for service and doesn't have the best facilities opts to send her child to a better hospital, is that administrator being hypocritical? Or is she just trying to do the best for her particular child? I say until you walk in her shoes, hold your venom.
Also Eric, in the Dahl piece you say he is "reportedly sober." Do you doubt his sobriety? Steve has been very open about his journey from his personal abuses to his getting sober. I am in recovery too, for decades and hope that those around me believe fully in my efforts. And trust me, it's an effort.
Finally, calling the Affordable Care Act "Obamacare." I've heard the opponents of ACA call it Obamacare while spitting the name. They question the need for a way for all Americans to receive health care , which is to me a right. Yes, a right. I know you don't feel that way as do I and I'll bet many of your readers do as well. We don't call social security "Roosevelt care" which I equate with the ACA in that it was a way to care for people.
Also thanks for the heads up on songs of good cheer. Tickets are in hand. Well in my phone anyway.
I respectfully but totally disagree with your position on school vouchers Eric. Chicago public schools are horrific failure factories that are controlled by the Chicago Teachers Union for the benefit of the union teachers.
It is not intellectually honest to say that the problem is in any large part due to insufficient funding. The current funding level for Chicago Public Schools amounts to about $29,000 per student, and Chicago Public School teachers are among the most highly compensated in the entire country. But what do the parents and taxpayers get for all that? Only about 1 in 5 Chicago public school students can read and do math at grade level! How in the world can anyone attempt to excuse this horrendously low performance??
Witness how the Chicago Teachers Union adamantly fights against any school consolidation when fully 1/3 of all Chicago Public Schools are at less than 50% of designed capacity. The five least populated schools - Douglas, Austin, Manley, Hirsch and Mason, are presently at 11% down to 4% capacity respectively, and even worse, average only about 1 in 20 children reading and doing math at grade level! This is a function of both ongoing declining student enrollment and parents avoiding the worst of the worst schools for their children, yet the CTU will fight against any consolidation to protect teacher jobs in these utterly failing and underutilized schools.
What is lacking in public education and is glaringly apparent in Chicago Public Schools is the total absence of accountability and incentives. The Chicago Teachers Union response to terribly poor student standard testing results is to get rid of testing so they will not be further embarrassed, but instead their also needs to be regular teacher competency testing and evaluation. Superior teachers should be rewarded for excellence and poor performing teachers should be given an opportunity for remedial training and then if there is still no improvement they should be dismissed to protect the children from their incompetence.
Finally, on an anecdotal basis my wife and I were horrified when we fostered an inner city girl during her junior year of high school to learn that she read at a third grade level and could not even do the twos of her multiplication tables. And, she was getting A's and B's in all of her classes even though she obviously was not demonstrating any competency whatsoever in the subjects. When we attended the first parent-teacher conference at Senn HS we challenged the teachers on why she was receiving these high grades when she obviously could not perform anywhere near grade level, and their response was that she was not disruptive in class and they felt she deserved good grades. Again, a total lack of accountability!
It is the height of irony that people on the left like to shriek racism anytime there is disparate outcome such as in Blacks being disportionately charged criminally and incarcerated even though that is simply a function of blacks disportionately committing violent crime at about 400% of their population according to FBI crime statistics. Chicago is about 1/3 white, but Chicago Public Schools white student population is only 11%. Obviously, there are more white parents who have the means to send their children to private schools where they believe they will get a better education. But, the inner city poor black population remains enslaved to the failing public education system. And of course, the Chicago Teachers Union is lobbying Pritzker very hard to get rid of the invest in children tax credit by which there are presently 900 inner-city children attending private schools.
Yes, there are many factors in student poor performance in the inner city, and I agree completely with another person posting who said that the secret sauce is having parents and a home environment that is supportive of education. But I can also tell you from the male inner city student we mentored through high school who was afforded an opportunity to attend a private high school through the Boys Hope/Girls Hope program where he initially struggled academically coming out of CPS but then through hard work he became very successful to graduate with honors and earning a full scholarship at Drake university. He is now enjoying a great early career that would never have been possible without the lifeline to a private school.
If you are happy with the status quo that is highly unlikely to ever change, let's keep throwing massive amounts of more good money after bad money into the public school system with the teachers compensation continuing to skyrocket. But if we are really concerned about the children, especially those who do not have any other options, we must consider school vouchers, at least on a needs basis for the inner city children. But, the CTU now runs Chicago so this is not going to happen and I do not see any sunshine on the horizon in Chicago public education.