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Counterpoint: Southwest Side doesn't need or want charter school

Ben Coyle, a teacher at Hubbard HS, speaks at the hearings for a proposed Charter School School on the South West side at Daley College. Wednesday, September 2, 2015 (Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times)

Last spring, Northsiders decried Noble’s proposal to open a charter school in their area. They organized and Noble pulled its proposal. Now, thousands of parents and educators, joined by nearly all of our elected officials, are organizing on the Southwest Side for the same reason. We don’t need or want a new Noble school in our community.

Noble justifies its proposal by saying Kelly High School is overcrowded. However, over the past five years, six new high schools have been opened in southwest Chicago, three of them by the Chicago Public Schools. Kelly has 1,000 fewer students since 2008, and five other area high schools are not at capacity. Most of our elementary schools also have fewer students, meaning our high schools can expect fewer students in the next five years. Overcrowding is no longer an issue in our community.

OPINION

Noble also justifies its proposal by saying there are no high quality options for students in the area. How can Noble claim that after CPS just spent over $150 million building new schools in the area, including a wall-to-wall IB school, Back of the Yards College Prep, and reconfiguring Hancock as a selective enrollment school? Kelly, Curie and Kennedy high schools have high performing IB programs, extensive advanced placement, college credit courses, and impressive bilingual programs. Kelly’s Freshman On Track scores have gone from 50 percent to 78 percent since 2010 and Kennedy has seen the highest increases in ACT scores in the district. Southwest Side families already have excellent educational choices.

However, Noble’s claim gets to the heart of the problem. Chicago’s education funding system is inequitable. It discriminates against neighborhood schools, stripping their resources, while the school board appears unfazed by the resulting diminished educational opportunities. CPS has no money for current schools, yet has money to open this unnecessary charter? If approved, Noble’s proposal would continue our city’s self-defeating trend of disinvesting in neighborhood schools to the benefit of private charter operators. Instead, the school board should recognize that a well-resourced and thriving neighborhood public high school is essential to a community’s stability and should direct more resources to our current schools.

Patrick Brosnan is executive director of the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.