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Panel: charter schools don’t make the grade

A group authors researchers discuss why charter schools are not outperforming public schools as much as they are touted during

A group of authors and researchers discuss why charter schools are not outperforming public schools as much as they are touted during a panel discussion Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, hosted by Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice at the Batavia Public Library.

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Updated: February 27, 2014 6:45AM

BATAVIA — Charter schools are not outperforming public schools as much as is touted, according to the activist organization Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice.

The group put together a panel discussion on charter schools Thursday night at the Batavia Public Library. Dozens of people from Elgin to Aurora came out on a sub-zero night to hear the discussion.

The group of authors and researchers who spoke painted charter schools as lacking in performance and innovation and mired in politics and corruption.

Panelist Sarah Hainds, who spoke on “How Charters are Diverting Money from the Classroom,” said parents, particularly in Chicago, often assume charter schools are focused on college prep, which is why many Chicago charter schools have waiting lists. “They heard charter schools are good because Mayor (Rahm) Emanuel and Oprah said so,” she said.

Hainds, who is part of the research team at the Chicago Teachers Union, said data has yet to prove charter schools are better preparing kids for college than public schools.

When it comes to academic performance, Jean Pierce said Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) 2013 report shows 80 percent of charter schools in the state performed no different or worse than public schools in reading and 63 percent of charters show no difference or worse in math.

A retired Northern Illinois University professor, Pierce warned about the proliferation of Education Management Organizations, like Concept Schools and K12 Inc.

Founded by Turkish American educators, Concept Schools, which manages Chicago Math and Science Academy, imports a portion of its teaching staff from Turkey. K12 Inc. was the company that drew much attention locally last year when 18 Fox Valley school districts voted down a proposal to bring a virtual charter school to the area. Pierce likened K12’s plan to using taxpayer money to homeschool students.

Panelist Chris Lubienski offered what he said was a generalized look at charter schools across the country and four reasons for their appeal: equity, innovation, efficiency and effectiveness. A researcher and author, Lubienski said charter schools often are more segregated and offer no more innovations than public schools.

When it comes to efficiency and effectiveness, Lubienski said good data is difficult to find because charter schools are not considered public and therefore don’t have to be reported with the same accountability and demographic information as public schools.

Panel moderator Vincent Gaddis of Aurora suggested that instead of adding more charter schools, the state should consider innovative programming to help students, like African American Men of Unity and Rites of Passage.

Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice describes itself as is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of unions, community organizations, faith-based groups, student groups, and seniors’ organizations. Members advocate for policies that create sustainable living wage jobs and challenge the existing economic inequalities.

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