The Debate Over School Choice in Chicago


The debate over the impact of charter schools is prominent both across the country and closer to home in Chicago. Are charter schools part of the solution for struggling public school systems, or are they part of the problem for the struggles?

The Chicago Tribune, as part of its "A New Plan of Chicago" program, hosted a panel debating the merits of school choices and charter schools.

Four panelists, each with a different viewpoint on the issue. It made for a very spirited debate.

The four panelists were Jitu Brown, national director for the Journey for Justice Alliance; Cinda Klickna, president of the Illinois Education Association (IEA); Dr. Beth Purvis, a leader of Chicago International Charter School (CICS); and Tim King, founder and CEO of Urban Prep Acadamies.

"I maintain that across the country and in Chicago we have a failing public school system, not failing public schools," Brown said.

In Chicago the problem of school choice is cyclical. Charter schools were formed to give disadvantaged students a better opportunity at getting accepted into and then graduating from college. But critics of charters say in the process charter schools also have destroyed neighborhood public schools by siphoning off the best students, leaving the schools to struggle to meet achievement standards. By attempting to solve one problem and get more students prepared for college, they say charter schools have adversely affected other public school students.

Yet even Brown, who is a proponent for neighborhood public schools, is not entirely against charter schools.

"We are not against charter schools in principal," Brown said. "There are things we can learn from charters that can aid neighborhood schools. But charters aren't the silver bullet. The intention of public education is that every child has the chance for world-class education in their neighborhood... some charters destabilize the neighborhood school."

For full coverage of the event, including a video stream, check out the link to Reboot Illinois' website here.