Other cities offer lesson for Chicago’s education policy

by Admin
Other cities offer lesson for Chicago's education policy

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson may have temporarily paused his crusade against selective enrollment schools, but there is still a long way to go to secure education options in Illinois.

Last month, Johnson succeeded in getting Illinois Senate President Don Harmon to stop a bill that would have stripped the Chicago Board of Education of its ability to close schools, including charters and selective enrollment public schools. Although Johnson reversed his and his allies’ prior statements in pledging not to touch selective enrollment schools until a fully elected school board assumes power in 2027, charters are still at risk. 

These alternatives to neighborhood schools have long been a lifeline for high-achieving students, especially those whose home addresses would otherwise trap them in failing schools. The mayor’s pledge to keep selective enrollment schools is welcome. However, the continued risk to charter schools and the fact that the issue reached the state legislature in the first place highlight a bigger-picture problem for Chicago: Leaders regularly side with progressive dogma over the well-being of their young residents. 

Charters and selective enrollment high schools have consistently outperformed the average among Chicago Public Schools. In the 2022-23 academic year, the district had a graduation rate of 85%. Of the city’s 42 charter schools, 28 beat the districtwide graduation rate, as did 10 out of 11 selective enrollment schools, according to the University of Chicago’s To&Through Project. Additionally, every selective enrollment school had a higher college enrollment rate than the citywide average.

Unsurprisingly, students who get into schools with higher admissions standards also have better academic outcomes. However, these schools’ resources and more challenging academics can prepare talented students from disadvantaged neighborhoods for longer-term success in ways that some neighborhood schools cannot. Cutting back on charters and selective enrollment schools would reduce options for parents concerned about the quality of their kids’ education.

Instead of mimicking doctrinaire progressive talking points or yielding to the demands of the Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago policymakers should learn from cities that have successfully tackled similar education challenges, even in progressive political environments.

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