On Monday, John Stossel asked in the Sun-Times, “What’s so wrong with school choice?” One flaw is his implication that eliminating charter schools equals eliminating choice. Private and parochial schools are abundant and are free to control admissions, curriculum and staff. They are beholden only to those who pay tuition. Charters have one fundamental difference — they are funded with our tax dollars, yet privately maintain control of operations, generally without transparency.
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All tax-funded services come with certain expectations: streamlined operation, service for all citizens and operations meeting uniform quality standards. This is not the case with charters, many of which are for-profit. As to admissions, they are often restricted, and they have been shown to control their population by “counseling out” more challenging students, who are left for public schools to educate and become part of their performance profile.
Tax dollars support charter school CEO salaries, which often exceed CPS principal salaries, yet charters claim they are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Several charters, such as UNO, have had funding suspended or have undergone an FBI investigation. In addition, charters drain funds from the already-bare-bones Chicago Public Schools.
Another misconception in the article is that charter schools are better. A Stanford University study in 2009 found 37 percent of charters did worse than traditional public schools, 46 percent performed the same and only 17 percent did better. Given that 83 percent of charters were no better and often worse, how can we argue for more of them?
Also disappointing is his support of Education Secretary nominee Betsy De Vos, who has no experience with public schools and who has had dismal outcomes for Michigan charters. The Detroit Free Press referenced “Brightmoor … a charter boasting more than a decade of abysmal test scores [and] … Hope Academy test scores have been among the lowest in the state throughout those two decades.”
Stossel doesn’t even understand the term “public school,” comparing it to a “public supermarket,” and he criticizes “government-run” schools. Is the government-run New Trier High School a failure? Is the 1975 law guaranteeing free, appropriate public education to all children with disabilities a waste?
Rhonda Milkowski, West Ridge
It was good to see John Stossel’s opinion in the Sun-Times on Monday. Someone who actually has some common sense when it comes to running things.
Phil Regner, Palos Heights
Does the public think that if a retail store does not have what you want to purchase, you can buy it online? Well, there is an exception to that. If you are a senior and are not a computer person and do not have an email address or a password, you can not buy anything.
Gary Kushner, Arlington Heights
Why are House Republicans suddenly finding the repeal of Obamacare so difficult, given they already voted something like 60 times to repeal or weaken it? Hypocrites, all of them!
Bob Barth, Edgewater
It was very telling that the very first thing that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wanted to do was gut the ethics function. It was clearly power showing its arrogance! It signaled the Republican’s mindset for the coming terms, which means that Americans as a whole and Democrats in particular will need to push back hard based on shared values and priorities. Recent polling shows strong support for many of the policy positions stated in the Democratic Party’s platform. This country as a whole is far more progressive in its politics than the Republicans imagine.
Mary F. Warren, Wheaton
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