Here is my response to the Trib’s b.s. editorial today. I’m guessing they won’t print it, so I’m self-publishing. (Feel free to share!) Link to Trib article is in comments.
Tribune Editorial Board:
Today’s editorial is the most clueless piece of nonsense yet from the Trib editorial board. Does anyone on the board have a child in a Chicago Public School? Does anyone know a friend or relative who teaches in a CPS school? The editorial reflects a complete lack of awareness of the challenges facing CPS families and by extension their teachers.
1. Yes, every student should have a high quality teacher, one who has appropriate certification and the endorsements necessary for the position. High quality is not determined by standardized tests since these tests discriminate against students who are bilingual or living in poverty. Furthermore, low growth rates are most often the result of inadequately funded schools and the multitude of problems caused by this lack of funding and thus do not accurately measure teacher quality.
2. Students don’t need school choice. They need well-funded neighborhood schools that they can walk to. Families want high quality neighborhood schools. They don’t want to apply for lotteries and compete to be admitted to distant, privately run institutions. Charters are an un-democratic alternative to truly public education, and are only appealing when neighborhood schools are dangerous and severely underfunded.
3. Vouchers are no solution to the challenges of educating students living in poverty. Vouchers, which typically cover just a fraction of the cost of private school tuition, help only the middle class. 86% of CPS students are economically disadvantaged. Vouchers will not enable them to attend private schools.
4. Big data. Seriously? Students have a right to big data to drive their education? Do Rahm’s kids at the prestigious Lab School receive an education based on Big Data? When schools are held accountable for gains in standardized test scores, the only result is a narrowing of the curricula and an increase in test prep, neither of which benefit the students.
5. Interruptions to the school year are not ideal in anyone’s mind, least of all the teachers. My colleagues and I do NOT want to strike. We want a fair contract that adequately compensates us for our labor. The current offer from CPS would result in a 7% decrease in teachers’ take-home pay, this while the cost of housing and other living expenses in Chicago soar. As teachers, our only power is to withhold our labor. We will do so if we do not get a fair contract.
6. Everyone knows that students with involved caring parents are more likely to succeed academically. Sadly, this is not something that we can legislate. With the vast majority of CPS students living in poverty, many parents are just struggling to survive and do not have the time to nurture their children’s academic growth at home. Furthermore, 16% of our students are still learning English, and a much higher percentage of their parents are non-English speakers. The language barrier makes it difficult for this population to assist their children academically, as much as they might want to.
The Trib Editorial Board has missed the mark here. Any parent or teacher could tell you what a Schoolchild’s Bill of Rights should really include:
1. The right to a clean, safe, well-maintained school building, with safe drinking water.
2. The right to a school library, big enough to service all students, staffed with enough trained librarians to serve the needs of the school’s population.
3. The right to a well-funded school that can meet the needs of all students in terms of special education services, social workers and counselors.
4. The right to a full-time nurse in every school.
5. The right to be educated in a classroom with fewer than 30 students. (Those private schools you recommend providing vouchers for usually cap class sizes at 22.)
6. The right to weekly education in art, drama, music, and technology for all students, with classroom space for the providers of such education. (Far too many art and music teachers travel from class to class, teaching in homerooms, for lack of a dedicated room of their own.)
7. Students have the right to plenty of physical activity & gym class. Suburban schools, and many private schools, offer gym class multiple times a week, especially in primary grades. CPS students have one gym period per week.
In closing, I suggest the Tribune Editorial Board get out of their tower and spend some time visiting CPS schools and talking to parents and teachers. It would give you a more accurate idea of the challenges and needs of our school system.
Anne V. Nolan
Teacher, Mary Lyon Elementary School