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Education Wed Feb 04 2009

How Not to Advocate Charter Schools: A Case Study

There are many excellent arguments in support of charter schools -- including nearly 17,000 in the form of students voluntarily enrolled in Chicago's charters from 2006-2007 -- but I've never encountered a bad one.

Until now.

Today's Southtown Star features an opinion piece by Fran Eaton in which she suggests Chicago parents should support charter schools because incoming Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman is gay.

Say what?

Eaton writes:

There are few choices for dissatisfied Chicago parents. Either move to another school district, find an alternate means of education for their children, or get over their concerns, accept homosexuality as normal and admit to themselves they are abnormal for thinking anything different...One way is to establish more charter schools.

Eaton quotes the director of the Illinois Family Institute's Division of School Advocacy, who thinks Huberman's appointment portends certain doom -- or gayness -- for CPS students:

"First, Huberman will be called upon to superintend issues related to how homosexuality is addressed in Chicago public schools," Higgins wrote. "Second, Huberman serves as a public role model. His open, unapologetic, unrepentant appropriation and affirmation of sexual deviance as morally defensible and central to his identity vitiates any legitimacy as premier educational leader in Chicago that his admirable qualities may have otherwise conferred on him."

(Hypothetically speaking, would Huberman be more acceptable as CPS's CEO were he to apologize for his sexuality? Just how silly is that question?)

According to Eaton and the IFI, Huberman's attraction to men makes it likely he will impose his sexuality on students from an office in downtown Chicago. All of this in a school system where administrators have been struggling to increase academic achievement for years. CPS students still perform below their extra-Chicago peers on the relatively easy ISAT--an average of 10 points lower according to the latest statistics.

Possessing such amazing powers of persuasion, Ron Huberman sounds like some kind of gay superman. Here's hoping he will consider using that same magic to further improve CPS students' test scores.

With a commitment to charters, he may do just that.

As CEO of the CPS, Huberman will oversee the expansion of charter schools in Chicago. His successful experience renegotiating union contracts during his time at the CTA -- saving a bunch of taxpayer money -- will be an asset in expanding school choice.

Differences in opinion on homosexuality between myself and Eaton notwithstanding, her claim that students at charter schools will be beyond his policy reach is just wrong.

Simply put, charter schools are excellent places of learning that produce superior test results and high graduation rates. That should be reason enough to support their work and expansion.

What a school administrator does in his private life has no impact on the ability of charters to innovate and students to achieve. Don't confuse the issues.

Julie Woestehoff / February 5, 2009 11:10 AM

You cite an internal CPS study to support your claim that CPS charter schools provide “superior test results.” CPS uses a highly questionable methodology to compare schools, and the district has a strong self-interest in trying to make these schools look good. After all, they are spending millions to get them up and running at a time of severe budget constraints, and in many cases they are hijacking neighborhood school buildings by closing high-performing traditional schools and handing them over to charter and other private operators.

A more objective and trustworthy source of information on CPS charter schools is the 2008 Rand Corporation study which showed that Chicago’s “charter schools performance in raising student achievement is approximately on par with traditional public schools.”

http://www.rand.org/pubs/technical_reports/TR585/

Fran / February 5, 2009 1:35 PM

Wow, Rich! I'll try to answer this on Illinois Review. One should take into consideration how much the radical homosexual agenda has permeated the curriculum and why it matters that kids are taught the best choices for their lives -- it matters because schools do impose morals all day long.
Sorry to impede the charter school movement with my column. Am shocked with your response.
Thanks for the enlightenment!

Ramsin CanonAuthor Profile Page / February 5, 2009 2:55 PM

Thanks for joining the discussion, Fran!

Surely you can't be surprised that your contention the presence of gay men in the public schools is cause for parents to fear recruitment of their children as cadre of the exists-only-in-your-fevered-nightmares "homosexual agenda" provoked a strong reaction.

Huberman is also of Jewish extraction--any comment on that? Should CPS parents fear their children asking for kreplach for dinner?

rodentface / February 5, 2009 3:12 PM

A comparison of charter schools and traditional schools is simply not a legitimate one.

Charter schools select their enrollment, cap total enrollment, limit class sizes, remove students for both disciplinary and academic reasons, require parental involvement as part of enrollment, and so on and so on. Traditional schools, by law, may not do any of these things. Given such incredible advantages charters should vastly out perform traditional schools. They don't. Research - when taken on the whole, not looking at outliers - is clear: charters and traditional schools perform about the same.

While magnet schools skim the top students based on test scores, charters skim based on less obvious issues of parental involvement, discipline, attendance, academic performance, and, yes, sometimes test scores.

The net outcome of all this is a three-tiered school system with magnets at the top, charters and their incredible resources ($22k per child at Noble Street Charter, for instance), and underfunded, undersupported neighborhood schools filled with the most challenging and struggling students at the bottom.

Michael / February 6, 2009 9:43 AM

Fran your comments are disturbing to say the least. You going under the assumption that being gay is a choice is a laughable. I'm sure a lot of people, myself included, "choose" to live on the fringes of society with less than equal civil rights just for fun. People like you are the reason that the gay youth suicide rate is sky high. Maybe, just maybe, having an openly gay head of the CPS will send a reaffirming message to all the youths (which I was one of not so long ago) out there that your feelings don't make you a freak and things might just turn out alright afterall.

Steven / February 6, 2009 10:18 AM

Fran and her "radical homosexual agenda" and the Illinois Family Institute???? This all sounds like the usualy bigots in the basement with laptops.

George / February 6, 2009 10:25 AM

Fran,

You're a bigot...plain and simple. Folks like you live in abject fear that somewhere in a child's day, the may actually have cause to consider that they do indeed share the world with homosexuals, some of their classmates may infact be gay and that they will go on to live normal, productive lives as gay Americans. I am old enough to recall a similar fear among whites when desgregation was introduced to the Boston school system. I rememebr hearing the same hand-wringing, sanctimony and indignation among white bigots...many, unfortunately, in my own family. I wish you and your ilk would simply get over the fact that some people are gay and didn't choose to be that way. Your prejudice--Yes, Fran, I accuse you of being prejudiced, whether you hide your bigotry behind religion, so-called morals, or anything you justify it with--is a drag on our country and our hopes for a better tomorrow for all our children. Shame on you and best of luck to Ron Huberman, who has apprently now come under the radar of the "Bedroom-to-Boardroom Police."

Please Lord, save us ALL from your followers!

Michelle / February 6, 2009 10:29 AM

Actually, Fran, there IS a choice for dissatisfied Chicago parents. That choice is to focus on the reading, writing and math skills of CPS students rather than get all exercised that someone downtown is gay. Just more proof that you, Fran, are not really interested in educational achievement.

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