Last August, the Illinois General Assembly passed SB 1947, an education funding bill aimed to make funding more equitable, which also allotted $75 million towards a tax credit scholarship program for low-and middle-income students. Added as a compromise amendment to SB 1947 and called the Invest in Kids Act, the state’s first tax credit scholarship program is, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, one of the largest in the United States. With the new bill, low- and middle-income students can now pursue private educational opportunities—instead of being limited to attending an underperforming public school district in Illinois—through donations from families or corporations to one of Illinois’ nine Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). SGOs then portion out their donated funds to cover all or most of the cost of tuition for low- and middle-income students who apply for these private school scholarships.
The charter school movement—which largely started in the 1990s with earnest mom-and-pop efforts to provide quality alternative education options—has resulted in a system of “educational sharecropping” for many of Chicago’s students of color, David Stovall argues in a new essay. A professor of educational policy and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Stovall traces in his essay efforts on the part of business interests, political opportunists, and outright criminals to decentralize the city’s public education system and spread the use of charters, largely on the South and West Sides.
In 2013, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) closed fifty public schools largely on the South and West Sides—the largest school closing in a single city in American history. Four months before, trying to head off the public backlash that quickly followed regardless, the district self-imposed a five-year moratorium on school closings. That moratorium lifted this year and in March, CPS consolidated four Englewood high schools into one and voted to close the level 1+-rated National Teachers Academy (NTA) elementary school to turn it into a neighborhood high school for the South Loop and Chinatown.
On Monday, February 12, over eighty people braved the cold to attend a public forum about school ratings in Chicago, titled “What Makes a School Great?” at Kenwood Academy High School. The event was the last of three forums about assessment put on by the coalition Parents and Teachers Driving Testing Policy; the first two focused on special education students and early childhood education, respectively. This forum was sponsored by seven local and national education advocacy groups. The audience included teachers, administrators, afterschool program providers, local school council members, and public education advocates.