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School Choice

I Have One Message for Chicago Public Schools: Our Children Are NOT Bargaining Chips

Yesterday morning, I stood with hundreds of charter public school parents and advocates in the rain outside of Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) headquarters to protest their latest political maneuver. In an effort to make peace with the Chicago Teachers Union in contract negotiations, CPS appears willing to agree to a self-imposed cap on charter schools and limit Chicago families’ right to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs. The parents I stood with all had students in one of the many charter schools across Chicago, places like the Noble Network of Charter Schools, Chicago International Charter School, UNO Charter School Network, Rowe Elementary, and more. We had one message for CPS: Our children are NOT bargaining chips. While all of our schools are different, the one thing all of the students and parents shared was the belief that our charter schools are providing a great public education and that we are fortunate to have them in our city. My son attends a charter high school called Noble Street College Prep, and we love it. I am confident he will be successful in college and his future career. That’s something I think every father wishes for his son. Shouldn’t every family in Chicago have the right to send their child to a great school like the one my son attends? The answer seems pretty simple to me. So why is CPS willing to deny parents that right? CPS’ dire financial situation and a potential teachers strike are no excuse to agree to a cap on charter schools in Chicago. It is just plain wrong, and it makes no sense to me or the parents standing beside me yesterday. Our children have access to a great education because CPS allowed charter schools to open in areas of need for high-quality schools. Why would CPS limit that progress and stop other parents from accessing schools with proven track records of success? Standing outside of CPS yesterday morning, I couldn’t help but think about the leaders who were negotiating the contract. Somewhere in that building, they were talking about a cap on charter schools. At the same exact moment, my son was sitting in his charter high school, building skills for college. It felt like they were talking about my son and my family. It’s hard not to take it personally. At the end of the day, my family is lucky because we were able to choose the best school for our son, but I worry parents won’t have the same choice in the future. As someone who was born and raised in Chicago, I love this city and want what’s best for us all—whether it’s my family or someone else’s. CPS needs to prioritize the rights of families, not politics.
Photo of parent protesting.
Roberto Arista
Roberto Arista’s son attends Noble Street College Prep, a campus of the Noble Network of Charter Schools in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. Roberto was born and raised in Chicago and currently works in financial services. He and his family live on the North West Side.

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