Monday, March 12, 2007

Virtual Schools: Parents over Prejudice

The following piece is from the Spontaneous Solutions A publication of the Illinois Policy Institute posted by Collin Hitt. Please be sure to contact your legislator at tell them to vote no on House Bill 232.

Virtual Schools: Parents over Prejudice

posted by Collin Hitt

The following post discusses 'virtual schools.' For more on virtual schools, and on the Chicago Virtual Charter School, go here.

I have been closely following a particular piece of legislation, House Bill 232, commonly called a 'virtual school ban.' Alexander Russo picked up on my edspresso post on the subject last week, and did a good job discussing the controversy that surrounds virtual schools.

In Illinois, both the Chicago Teachers Union and Representative Monique Davis have taken measures to close Illinois' lone virtual charter school. The Chicago Teachers Union's motives are obvious. Davis' are somewhat more...complex.

During a meeting of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee last month, while her virtual school ban was being debated, Davis stated, "Tomorrow, who knows what somebody's bright idea may be, to pick people, who...Some people give less than a darn whether they get educated or not. And I am going to tell you, I am not going to sit by and have you miseducate a number of people to fill up the prisons in the state of Illinois."

Davis' comments were directed at the staff, parents and students of the Chicago Virtual Charter School attending the committee meeting on February 22. I was present at that meeting, and able to witness the Representative's behavior first-hand. I believe her comments were made in very poor taste. But that's not the point. In her diatribe against parents, she spoke to the central issue of school choice.

And so did Lilly Henton, the aunt of a CVCS student and of the 'you' who Davis was talking to: "This is all about integrity - the integrity of the parent, in their home. You asked us to be more involved with our children and then when we try to be we get all kinds of heat and questions about our integrity..."

Ms. Henton had, at the time, been asked to prove that students were doing their own homework. She continued thus: "I am not helping Angelie by doing her homework...

"How am I going to teach Angelie about how to succeed, if I'm doing her homework? I am on there with her, to help her, not do it for her. That's not going to make her a better citizen. That's not going to make her a better student. That will not help my niece..."

The decision to chaperon a child's education, rather than send her to school all day, is not one that a parent takes lightly. A virtual classroom is not the best environment for every child. Parents know this. But a CPS classroom is not the best environment for every child, either, to say the least.

I have visited the CVCS campus. I have met with parents. I have written and published on the issue, but my familiarity with the school pales in comparison to that of the hundreds of parents who have put their children in - and kept them in - the Chicago Virtual Charter School.

So, I have to wonder, who are the parents to whom Ms. Davis was referring? Those who don't give a darn about education? Surely, they are out there. But they aren't touring virtual schools. They aren't staying home with their children, and attending training seminars on how to use new software. Which begs the question, are lawmakers like Davis so traumatized by the poor choices of a select few that she is willing to stigmatize her entire electorate?

The fact is, the only way to help the children of 'those parents' is to improve their public schools. And those schools will only be improved by the competive pressures that mount once parents are offered a diverse array of unique schools from which they can choose.

The Chicago Virtual Charter School is certainly a unique school. If the school is allowed to remain open, time will tell and parents will decide if they want to send their children there. I suspect that they will, as long as they have the opportunity to do so.

To read more of Collin Hitt's articles go to the Spontaneous Solutions website. Be sure to visit the site so you can visit the links in his above post.

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