The Sun-Times was absolutely correct that the Illinois State Charter School Commission “had no choice under state law, given the way CPS blew by the rules,” but to overrule a decision by the Chicago School Board to close three charter schools (“Let CPS, not a state board, run all Chicago’s schools” — March 3). Where is the critique of how Chicago Public Schools operates in its decision-making? To say we don’t need a state commission suggests we don’t need a State Supreme Court to provide some avenue to appeal when a district does not follow the law. In fact, the commission rarely votes against a district’s decision.
We also want to address CPS’ and the media’s characterization of these schools as failing. The Sizemore Academy campus of the Betty Shabazz International Charter School has 71 percent of seventh- and eighth-grade boys at or above grade in reading; 64 percent of eighth graders eligible for testing for selective high schools; was a finalist in New Schools for Chicago competition against 70 CPS schools, among other strengths I could identify. In addition, there is no scrutiny of CPS changing Sizemore’s 2013 MAP test scores. The principles for that system decision is not supported by research. Charter schools do not receive equal funding with network schools and should not be pawns in CPS’ negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union. We agree with CTU that there should be limits on charters in the city and they should be held accountable to high standards. But we also believe schools should be evaluated holistically and fairly.
Sizemore clearly met the standard of “reasonable progress,” but that progress was not the focus of CPS’ decision.
Carol D. Lee, education professor, Northwestern University and board chair, Betty Shabazz International Charter Schools
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Plenty of alternatives to fur coats
A March 24 article focused on the plight of a man who illegally released over a thousand minks from a fur farm (“No more jail time for man who freed 2,000 minks downstate”). His actions were reckless and harmful. However, we have reached a stage when killing animals for their furs is unnecessary and irreverent. Many creative and humane fashion-industry people have created products that aesthetically simulate the look and feel or real via using cruelty-free garments. These artificial furs are attractive, comfortable and affordable. The fur industry can flourish without killing animals.
Brien Comerford, Glenview
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