PSAT: Tell your senator what you think about more charter schools

It’s Public Schools Action Tuesday (PSAT)!

Illinois Senator Mark Kirk is asking his constituents to answer this question about charter schools: “Should Congress use its educational funds to support the expansion of Charter Schools?”

In the post, Kirk declares that he “strongly supports charter schools.” The post is headlined with the incorrect statement that 9 of top 10 High Schools in Chicago are Charter Schools. Here’s a video demonstrating how some CPS high school students called candidate Rahm Emanuel out on a similar misstatement.

Folks are also invited to leave a message on Sen. Kirk’s Facebook page. So far, comments are overwhelmingly against charter schools – for example,

Charter schools in many cases are run by corporations and receive little money from the government and operate in many instances under a different set of rules. We don’t need more charter schools, we need better public education funded by local government and with some help from the federal level as well. Stop pushing our tax dollars into the corporate sectors pockets just to win votes – use it locally the way you’re suppose to.

Here’s what I wrote on Kirk’s Facebook page:

Senator Kirk, I have not been able to register my opposition to expanded charter schools on your survey ( I get a “form disabled” message). Overall, charter schools do worse than traditional schools, despite growing evidence that many eithe…r choose not to enroll more challenging students or push them out if they do enroll. Your headline, 9 out of top 10 CPS high schools are charter schools is not correct. When candidate Emanuel used a similar false statement, a group of CPS students made this video to correct him. I agree with several other posters here that you should focus more on traditional and neighborhood schools rather than on privatization and other strategies that have been proven unsuccessful.

Non-Illinoisans can speak out, too!

If you aren’t from Illinois and are not represented by Senator Kirk, it’s still a good idea to share your thoughts with your Senator on expanding charter schools, test-score-based teacher evaluations, national standardized tests, school closures and turnarounds, and other “reform” strategies that most people involved with schools don’t want and most educators/researchers say don’t work.

You can make it easy by sending them the PAA position paper on ESEA reauthorization, which is summarized here:

Parents Across America opposes:

  • Policies that use standardized test scores as the most important accountability measure for schools, teachers or students, and/or expand the use of standardized testing in our schools.
  • Competition for federal funds; a quality education is not a race but a right.
  • “Parent trigger” laws, vouchers, charter takeovers or other forms of school privatization that take resources from the schools attended by most students and put them into private hands, with less oversight.
  • Limiting federally-mandated school improvement models to a narrow set of strategies, including charter schools and privatization, which are favored by corporate reformers but which have had little verified success.

A new ESEA/NCLB must include:

  • Sufficient and equitable resources in all public schools, so that every child receives a high-quality education.
  • Improving schools rather than closing them, by means of evidence-based solutions backed by parents and other stakeholders.
  • Less standardized testing and more reliable accountability and assessment practices.
  • Programs that encourage the retention of professional, experienced teachers.
  • A full range of parent involvement opportunities including a stronger parent voice in decision making at the school, district, state, and national levels.
  • The right of parents to opt their children out of standardized tests.

Status of ESEA in Congress

The U. S. House recently passed HR 2218, which is essentially a charter school expansion bill. This law was opposed by Parents Across America (our position paper here). My Congressman, Bobby Rush, and Congressional Black Caucus Education Chair, Danny Davis, voted NO. I spent quite a bit of time with Cong. Davis’s education point person on this bill when I was in Washington for the SOS March last July, and I believe it was time well spent despite the outcome.

The House’s approach to ESEA reauthorization has been to break up various aspects of the existing No Child Left Behind law into several small bills, most of which they have passed and sent on to the Senate. Now the Senate is beginning to consider their own version, which is more likely to be an all-inclusive bill, and is not likely to go anywhere this year, according to our sources.

Still, the Senate language is already being crafted and will form the groundwork for whatever the Senate eventually does on ESEA, so now is the time to be heard.

Julie Woestehoff, PURE and PAA-Chicago

Posted on by Julie Woestehoff Posted in Uncategorized

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