WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, who regularly criticizes Chicago over its inability to curb violent crime, opened a new front on Tuesday, taking a shot at city public schools.
Trump brought up Chicago schools during a conversation with top business executives at the White House.
One CEO told Trump the high school graduation rate in New York City is 70 percent, “but the readiness of our students for college and careers is only 37 — is assessed at 37 percent” as she went to ask Trump about training for the next generation of workers.
Trump, in reply, brought up charter schools, saying they have done “incredibly well.”
Continued Trump, “If you look at so many elements of education, and it’s so sad to see what’s coming — what’s happening in the country.
“Even the numbers, as good — you say we’re doing better, but the numbers in New York, the numbers in Chicago are very rough. The numbers in Los Angeles — the cities — it’s a very rough situation.
“Common core — I mean, we have to bring education more local. We can’t be managing education from Washington,” Trump said, referring to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Common Core plans set academic standards and are often debated in education circles. Common Core has a cadre of backers and opponents. Trump is against Common Core.
The big question: What was Trump referring to when it comes to Chicago schools? It wasn’t obvious from his reply to the CEO.
No one would argue that the Chicago Public Schools have deep financial problems. The “numbers” that are the roughest for CPS are the financial numbers.
Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill that would have provided $215 million in pension help already built into the CPS budget has triggered several rounds of furlough days and classroom cuts and threatens to cut the school year three weeks short.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, the White House Director of Media Affairs, said in an email, “the President was responding to a question regarding high school graduation rates. Although high school graduation rates have improved in cities such as New York which is at 70 percent, only 37 percent of those are prepared to attend college or get a meaningful job. Those are the terrible numbers the president was referring to.”
No Chicago-specific graduation rates were part of the discussion between Trump and the CEOs.
A statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson presumed the “numbers” Trump was talking about refer to academic achievement.
The three said, “Once again, facts don’t matter to this administration. . . . Last year Chicago’s students were among the nation’s leaders in fourth grade reading gains and eighth grade math gains. Chicago leads all urban school districts for the increase in our graduation rate.
“Our students have achieved record highs for ACT scores and college acceptance. In fact, Chicago is the large urban system that grows its kids the most anywhere, according to an analysis done by Sean Reardon at Stanford University.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a major supporter of charter schools.
Trump’s broad-brush budget blueprint unveiled last month – nicknamed the “skinny budget” because it was thin on details – proposed reducing Education Department spending by 13 percent. The cuts would include federal grants for after-school and other programs. Spending for charter schools would jump.