Monday, August 17, 2009

Charter Schools - Competition to the Public Sector

See my comments at the end of this release.



August 13, 2009

Expanding Choice, Improving Education

Dan's Plan to Increase the Number of Illinois Charter Schools

Every parent, regardless of income or address, should be able to choose the best school for their child. A Proft Administration will:

(1) Allow for the expansions of charter schools to meet the demand by removing the artificial caps on the number of charter schools. Right now demand vastly exceeds supply as highlighted by the fact that there are 13,000 children on the waiting list for charter schools in Chicago alone; and

(2) Set up an independent review process to remove the curious current protocol whereby charter schools require approval from local school boards that have an incentive to deny them and prevent competition.

This coming school year, two new charter schools are opening in the City of Rockford – Galapagos Rockford Charter School and Legacy Academy of Excellence. A third, CICS Rockford Charter School, is scheduled to open in 2010. Rockford has a high school graduation rate of 40% -- less than even the abysmal Chicago Public School system – so the city’s embrace of choice and competition to improve the quality of students’ education is a good sign.

Rockford’s three new charter schools bring the grand total of non-Chicago charter schools in Illinois to an even dozen. That’s it; twelve across the entire state.

That’s 12 charter schools for approximately 1.7 million non-Chicago students in Illinois.

Outside of private schools, Illinois’ charter schools offer some of the best education in the state. Charter school students routinely outperform district averages in key academic fields, such as reading, math, science and writing.

So why are there so few charter schools to accommodate the thousands of Illinois students who want to attend them? Despite virtually universal praise for charter schools in Chicago, even by Mayor Daley, why are so few families afforded the opportunity to choose a charter school for their children?

Because Illinois places an arbitrary, teachers’ union-pleasing cap on the number of charter schools it permits to operate.

A 2007 Friedman Foundation survey found that 23% of Illinois parents would send their kids to a charter school, yet, outside of Chicago, only 2% of Illinois families have that choice.

If the goal of state education is to educate children, and if charter schools are proven better at doing that than their public-school counterparts, it stands to reason that Illinois would want to have as many charter schools as demand supports – not as the politicians in Springfield permit.

But that’s not the way the education system works in Springfield. The failing school systems in Illinois—and there are many—are set up for the convenience and benefit of the adults in the system.

This is why you have the paradox in Illinois of K-12 systems that no one in power wants to defend and yet no one in power wants to change. That means someone’s interests are being served by the status quo and it certainly isn’t the students', who are not being taught to read, write, or think critically.

A Proft Administration would expand choice in Illinois by lifting the arbitrary cap on charter schools and end the local district school boards’ monopoly on the charter-school application process. Even with the ability to appeal the local school board decision on a prospective charter school to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), this process neither meets the standard of independence or due process. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, out of 41 appeals since 1998, ISBE has overturned the local board’s decision just twice.

It’s yet another system in Illinois that isn’t broken. It’s fixed.

We “un-fix” it by:

• Eliminating the charter school cap.

• Create an independent charter school board charged with authorizing new charter schools.

Creating a new authorization agency would allow charter-school applicants another, more equitable avenue to submit an application, free from local bureaucratic politics. The agency would be modeled off the Washington, D.C., Charter School Board, which the Center for Education Reform has called “the gold standard in charter school accountability.”

Under this proposal, a Proft Administration would unleash the potential in charter-school education across Illinois. Together with my proposed “Universal Clout Program for Education,” we will expand choice for parents and introduce competition into school systems that are withering away without it.

Only then will we see improvements in our children’s education.


Charter schools are a proven success. Among the dozens or articles I have accumulated, all agree that the failing public sector needs competition. On August 13,2009, the WSJ published an article by Ann Marie Chaker, "Expanding the Charter Option" quoting Andrea Byrd who moved to Memphis and enrolled her 14 year old son in a public school: "Andre, a straight A student, started dumbing himself down, (see my blogs of May 13, 2008 and 5/28/05 on "dumbing down") to fit himself in with other students. A charter school had recently opened but Tennessee law required that her son be considered low-performing which he wasn't.

But all that changed when Tennessee enacted a law for charter schools to also include kids from low income families. He was enrolled the same day he filled out his application."

The U.S. Department of Education is engaged in a high pressure campaign to get states to lift limits on charter schools. "Race to the Top" is funded by $4 billion federal dollars. While 40 states permit charter schools, Illinois, among other states have detrimental restrictions hindering the growth of charter schools. Tennessee, is one of 7 states that have recently passed laws raising limits of charter schools; in the case of Tennessee, to 90 from 50 charter schools. Above is how Gubernatorial Candidate Dan Proft feels about charter schools.

Merle Widmer

1 comment:

Jon said...

A charter school, whereby the school must admit all students who apply (or get in by lottery if space is limited), I fully support, as well as the proposals to increase the number of charters available and take the control away from the local school board.

This is a much better alternative than Proft's voucher program, even if that is limited to just low income students/families.