Jesse Sharkey of the Chicago Teachers Union gets it wrong again in explaining why charter public school teachers are threatening to strike. CTU’s continued effort to politicize charter public schools is a disservice to charter school teachers who work tirelessly to educate 57,000 Chicago children.

CTU alleges that charters are funded at 8 percent higher than district-operated schools. This is simply false. A recent national study found that Chicago charter schools actually receive 14 percent less than district counterparts.

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Years of underfunding and budget cuts have forced charter schools to take on debt to fund facilities. Charter public schools are independent financial entities and must be able to continue operations, even when funding is inadequate. Unlike the district, charters have limited access to capital markets and must secure facilities themselves. Despite these challenges, charters have more social workers, instructional coaches, and college counselors to support students.

CTU leaders claim that charter teachers are underpaid, yet CTU has fought legislation that would allow charters to close the wage gap. Complaining about a problem that one created is further evidence that the CTU is not interested in solving a very  real resource challenge.

Charters are proud to be part of the Chicago public school system, contributing to increased graduation rates and post-secondary success. By imposing the same restrictions on charter’s length of school day, curriculum, and staffing, CTU seeks to eliminate reasons why families select charters in the first place. Chicago families deserve better.

Andrew Broy
President
Illinois Network of Charter Schools

Demise of HOPE Court a sign of reform

I read the Sun-Times editorial “Demise of HOPE Court an unhappy sign for criminal justice reform” and felt the need to respond to help you understand what reform actually looks like. The headline on the editorial should have been “Demise of HOPE Court a sign of criminal justice reform.”

You are bashing a process that worked in many ways like policy-making and reform efforts should:

A jurisdiction seeks to implement a program that research has shown to be promising. As part of that process, an evaluation is done to ensure fidelity to the design. Efforts are made to correct it, and when those efforts are not successful the program ends and lessons are learned. That is what reform looks like: you try to improve the system, you objectively evaluate if it works, and if not, you end it, learn from what did not work, and invest those resources in other promising or proven programs.

Unfortunately, that process rarely has been followed in the past, which is why there are tons of criminal justice programs across Cook County, the State of Illinois and nationally that have never been subject to evaluation, which we spend a lot of money on, and are likely ineffective. Rarely are agencies willing to evaluate programs to see if they work, or end them if they don’t.

David E. Olson
Co-Director of the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice
Loyola University Chicago