After spending a few years in the south suburbs, last spring my husband and I moved our family back to Chicago’s far South Side. The first thing on my mind was finding a good schools for my three children. It’s a lot more complicated these days.
When we were growing up, you had to go to the neighborhood school. Nobody put this much energy into choosing a school when I was young. Today, everything is totally different. Even though, at times, choice can feel overwhelming, I’m glad I have it.
My youngest is 2 years old. We enrolled him in Early Head Start at Dr. Deton J. Brooks, a child-care center run by the Trinity United Church of Christ. At orientation, they told us they would be holding a grammar school fair with 25 different programs, up from 17 last year.
I said, “Are you serious?”
School choice has become such a big deal, it’s amazing.
Growing up, I didn’t have any choice until high school. Then, it was South Shore or Hyde Park, and everyone said Hyde Park was better, so that’s where I went. Looking back, I feel cheated. Nobody was pushing me, or helping me explore the choices when I went to high school. It’s been a very different experience for my children, and I’m glad.
My oldest, now 15, is at Hansberry College Prep, a Noble Network high school. I love the school. Even though at first he was kind of skeptical, after the first week he loved it. I love it because it is disciplined. It keeps him structured and focused on what he needs to be doing to prepare for college.
We arrived back in the city just in time to enroll our middle child, Amya, at Chicago International Charter School-Longwood. It was a good fit at the right time. I heard Longwood was a good school from a friend whose daughter had gone through sixth grade, until they left the city. Amya can walk to school. In fact, Longwood is a closer and safer walk than our so-called “neighborhood” school.
When we checked out Longwood, I liked what I saw. I like the school’s vision and goals. Even more, I like that the teachers are from the younger generation and more equipped to deal with inner-city kids. They teach their specialty, and their enthusiasm shows. When a teacher shows enthusiasm for the topic, students feed off it. Another thing I appreciate about Longwood is that I receive an email or text message from the school every day. That’s a big difference from where Amya was before.
I like the idea of charter schools because you are there because you want to be. Who doesn’t want a choice? You want choice in what you eat, what you wear, where you work.
By having a choice, you have the ability to mold your child’s future. Why should we place a moratorium on helping more parents have those choices?
And tell me this: If charter schools are supposedly paying teachers and principals so much less money than district-run schools, how can they be draining the system?
Charter schools are public schools. They have per-pupil allocations, just like district-run schools. That money needs to follow the children wherever they go. If we keep arguing about charter versus district schools, we fail to see the bigger picture.
The argument should be centered on fighting for fair education for each and every child, especially in Illinois—where we are worst in the nation for school funding.
We’re all in this together.