A recent representative poll of 1,010 Chicago residents has found that 61 percent support a Parent Trigger law.
Parent Trigger laws allow a majority of parents whose children attend a failing school to require change through petition. In California, the first state to pass such a law, parents can petition for school improvements, school closure, conversion to a charter school, and two ways of restructuring the school and staff.
Twelve states are considering Parent Trigger legislation this spring.
Sixty-seven percent of those polled rated city schools a C, D, or F, although 74 percent gave their child’s school an A or B. City education politics have centered on the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU’s) resistance to more charter schools, but the majority of those polled were receptive to charters.
Sixty-four percent favored making it easier for charters to expand in neighborhoods charter schools have wait lists. Sixty-eight percent said it should be easier for charters to open in areas with poorly performing schools.
“I wish we spent as much effort recruiting high quality charter operators as we do new businesses,” Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, told the Chicago Tribune. “But charter operators say, ‘Why should I come to Chicago if Memphis gives me $3,000 more per pupil, I have lower labor costs and the political environment is better?’ We don’t exactly make the top of the beauty list here.”
Education costs in Chicago are among the expenses bankrupting the city: The schools budget is projected to be $1 billion in the red this coming school year. That’s why Mayor Rahm Emanuel has moved to close 54 more expensive traditional public schools this fall, where many buildings are far too big for their declining enrollment.
But to stave accusations he is doing this to weaken the CTU, Emanuel’s team has also suggested halting the growth of cheaper charter schools. Charter schools are rarely unionized, which is one reason for their lower cost.
CTU has taken to the streets to protest the school closings plan, fearing it means less spending and fewer teachers. Although most Chicago residents in the poll atttributed Chicago’s horrifically low student achievement to things outside teachers’ control such as drugs and violence, they also disagreed with union priorities elsewhere. Thirty-eight percent of them, a plurality, in the poll agreed the most important way to judge a teacher is by evidence her students are learning, not according to union priorities such as seniority or degrees.
The Chicago Tribune and Joyce Foundation commissioned the poll.
Joyce Foundation-Chicago Tribune Education Survey, March 2013: http://heartland.org/policy-documents/joyce-foundation-chicago-tribune-education-survey.
Image by Randy Lane.