Chicago Public Schools holds students hostage by trapping them in a broken system

If public education in Chicago wasn’t already bad enough, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is now holding some students hostage – by trying to get rid of a school choice program helping low-income students.

CTU – which was just criticized for forcing schools to return to remote learning after doing the same thing a year ago – tweeted in opposition of Invest in Kids, a school choice program created in 2017.

In the 2021-22 school year, the program funded scholarships for over 9,000 students. Many of those students (4,592) are ethnic minorities and over 6,000 fall under or near the federal poverty level.

If the teachers’ union succeeds in forcing Invest in Kids to sunset, it will deny low-income and minority students the opportunity to attend high-quality educational institutions.

This is troubling because Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is exceptionally bad at educating students.

The Illinois State Board of Education reported a mere 20% of CPS students read at grade level and only 15% meet commensurate math requirements.  

The data for low-income students is even worse.  

Only 14% and 9% of low-income elementary and middle school students meet reading and math grade level standards, respectively. Their middle or high-income counterparts scored 42% and 36%, respectively.  

Similar disparities were observed in CPS high schools, where only 13% of low-income students were proficient. Students who were not from low-income families were 46% proficient in reading and 43% in math.  

And test scores aren’t CPS’s only problem.  

Many of Chicago’s schools operate at less than 25% capacity, at great cost to the taxpayer. The twenty worst offenders spend over $27,000 per student, more than twice Illinois’ average funding 

Additionally, chronic absenteeism in Illinois increased to 30% last year. CPS’s current rate is 45%.  

Although school choice programs such as Invest in Kids help students leave failing public schools and get high-quality education elsewhere, public school advocates won’t budge.  

“All types of voucher schemes increase education inequity and harm the public good,” claims Illinois Families for Public Schools. “We think public funds should only be for public schools.”  

Although public school advocates vilify school choice, most Illinoisans (60%) support it, including 66% of Democratic voters, 71% of African Americans, and 81% of Latinos.  

As CPS’s CEO receives a raise putting him near the top of the city’s payroll, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot uses an elementary school building to house 100 asylum-seeking migrants, countless low-income and minority students languish in the public system.