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CTU chief Karen Lewis is wrong on charter schools

3-5-10 College-Bound:  now wearing uniform stripes ties 107 seniors Urban Prep Academies nation's first all-boys public charter high school

3-5-10 College-Bound: now wearing the uniform stripes ties, 107 seniors of the Urban Prep Academies, the nation's first all-boys public charter high school are accepted to college. Mayor Daley and Ron Huberman were apart of the "tie ceremny" at Urban Prep Charter School, 6201 S. stewart/chicago. (photo by john h white/chicago sun-times)

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Updated: October 20, 2012 6:15AM

What do 52,000 Chicago parents of charter school students understand that Karen Lewis doesn’t?

In her Sunday Sun-Times screed against public charter schools, Lewis ignores one inescapable fact: Chicago parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to charter schools. In just the past five years, the number of students in charter schools has doubled, even as the number of students on charter waiting lists has ballooned.

I understand that Lewis is fighting a political battle and I have no problem with Lewis quoting me for noting that some charter schools still have seats available.

That is the nature of schools of choice. Harder to understand is Lewis’ unprovoked attack on Urban Prep, a charter school with the mission of providing a college-preparatory curriculum to African-American young men in our city.

Each of Urban Prep’s graduating classes has achieved a 100 percent college acceptance rate in a city where fewer than one in 5 African-American males graduate and enroll in four-year colleges.

Instead of celebrating this achievement, Lewis allows her blind hatred for charter schools to disparage hundreds of young men who are working hard to fulfill their potential.

She also questions where Urban Prep graduates go to college. I have her answer: Cornell University, Northwestern University, Georgetown University, Purdue University, Morehouse College, the University of Virginia and the University of Illinois are just a few of the colleges proud to enroll Urban Prep alumni.

Lewis also claims, without any evidence, that charter schools cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” to open. My organization has helped open dozens of charter schools over the past 10 years, and I can assure her that not a single one ever cost close to that amount. Under state law, charter schools are funded based on a per pupil figure tied directly to enrollment. If parents do not choose to send their children to charter schools, they earn no funding. That is true accountability.

While not all charter schools are perfect, they are proving that demography is not destiny and changing the lives of thousands of Chicago students, mainly on the South and West sides of our city where the need is highest.

On academic performance, two-thirds of charter schools in Chicago outperform comparable local schools in the same neighborhoods. And there is no dispute that charter schools are overrepresented at the top of the academic performance distribution. They do all this while serving our city’s neediest families and communities.

Perhaps the strike has not afforded Ms. Lewis the time to actually research the results of charter schools in Chicago. If she had, she would understand why so many Chicago parents have decided that charter schools are best for their children.

Andrew Broy is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

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