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Opinion: Charter schools moratorium puts family hopes on hold

One would think that a City Council facing a major property tax increase and continuing fiscal challenges would not spend its time attempting to limit Chicago families from attending better schools. One would be wrong.

A proposed moratorium on charter schools currently being considered by the Chicago City Council is misguided and puts on hold the hopes of thousands of Chicago families. The resolution fails to acknowledge a simple reality: Chicago parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to charter schools, and thousands of students continue to languish on charter school waiting lists. Why do our City Council members want to shut the schoolhouse door on those families?

OPINION

Those who support a moratorium oppose the growth of any charter school, no matter how high-performing, no matter how long the waiting list, and no matter how innovative the curriculum. This is where we differ. We at the Illinois Network of Charter Schools are trying to expand great schools. We have also long supported closing or turning around low performing charter schools. It is part of the charter bargain. But we need a related commitment to continue to expand proven, high-quality schools.

Rather than considering symbolic resolutions that would have no force of law, we suggest that the City Council instead focus on the real educational problem facing our city: the lack of high-quality schools of any type.

Despite recent improvement, Chicago has too many schools that produce abysmal results for students. These schools are clustered in neighborhoods with limited economic opportunity, effectively doubling down on disadvantage. There are also portions of our city, especially in heavily Latino neighborhoods, where schools are dramatically overenrolled.

We should use new school options, including high-quality charter schools, co-location arrangements, and similar models to reduce overcrowding and encourage school providers to locate in areas where the need is greatest.

Finally, the moratorium repeats the mistake of focusing solely on utilization rates and enrollment figures when the real issue is how to create great schools. The simple reality is that educational opportunity is still rationed inequitably in our city. No moratorium will change that. But the expansion of high-quality charter schools will.

Andrew Broy, a former public school teacher, is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, a group that supports and advocates on behalf of Illinois charter public schools.

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