But charter advocates will be prepared to offer candidates for an elected board, standing with Black and Latinx families and educators who choose charter public schools.
As the leader of the principal charter public school advocacy organization in Chicago, I feel compelled to respond to recent reports and op-eds in the Sun-Times related to proposed legislation to create a fully elected school board in Chicago.
Multiple articles have claimed that an elected board ultimately will lead to a high-dollar political fight between the Chicago Teachers Union and charter advocates, similar to what has taken place in major cities like Los Angeles. This creates a false equivalency between the CTU and our organization. The Illinois Network of Charter Schools is not the organization lobbying Springfield in an attempt to create a fully elected school board.
To be clear, the question of school board governance is not about individual organizations, special or adult interests. Getting this legislation right is about serving the Black and Latinx communities in this city who have been historically voiceless in education decisions and outcomes. This process is about righting the wrongs of past policies that did not seek enough community input and support before altering the foundation of many Chicago communities — its public schools.
But to think such a result will occur by adding 21 new politicians to Chicago’s fractured political environment is the height of naivete.
Whatever the outcome in Springfield, charter advocates will be prepared to offer candidates for an elected board and unify our coalition to back a series of candidates who will stand with Black and Latinx families and educators who choose charter public schools. We cannot in one breath say that Chicagoans deserve to exercise their voice through an elected board, but then in the next diminish the voices of tens of thousands of charter public school families who have voted with their feet for over 20 years in this city.
Unfortunately, it has become politically advantageous to scapegoat the charter public school community and the families who choose this option. But we will not allow our families to be used as political footballs to score points with a vocal minority of adult advocates. We fight for children and respect families’ choices — that will never change.
INCS supports a school board that is ready and willing to work with all communities and families, including the 97% of Black and Latinx families that charter public schools serve. We support a school board that leads with policies and actions that prioritize students and their individual needs, respects families’ choices, and supports all public schools equitably, regardless of school type. When school boards act critically and fairly, there is no need for political volleying of children to elevate adult interests. We work with elected school boards across the state that have authorized charter schools, from Rockford to East St. Louis. The boards that are most effective are those that put student interests and learning ahead of self-interest, narrow parochial concerns, or ideological battles.
One thing remains constant for INCS: no matter if Chicago has a fully elected school board, a hybrid school board, or mayoral control, charter public schools are a critical component of the success of Chicago Public Schools over the past two decades. To deny that fact is to deny the reality of the thousands of charter public school graduates who have graduated college and are successfully contributing to their communities every day. Many of these graduates are currently employed by the city, CPS or in the charter public school community.
Simply put, INCS supports policies that center the needs of students and leaders who lead with integrity, equity, and are community-minded. We always stand with those individuals who are willing to work in coalition and partnership to create the best outcomes for students.
Andrew Broy is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools and a former civil rights attorney and public school teacher.
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