I ask the Serras if there’s anything CPS could do to keep middle-class families. Sue says it should add more high schools with special programs for kids “who aren’t in the top 1 percent, but maybe they’re in the top 10 percent.”
She also thinks CPS needs to make its neighborhood high schools more attractive. “Let’s say there was a big plan to completely rehab Mather—to put an addition on it, and bring in new staff and a new principal, and introduce some kind of cool curriculum, some new style of learning. It would have made us think a lot harder about staying.”
Sandro’s not so sure. “In my mind, it always comes back to the home.” He says he means the home of the children who’d be his daughters’ classmates. “Do they have a good home environment?”
Sandro says he realizes that many parents on the south and west sides have children in schools far worse than Mather. “I’m so empathetic for those folks because they don’t deserve that,” he says. “Crime and poverty is higher in those areas. It’s a formula for disaster. I don’t see how you can function on the level of funding we have now.”
He thinks the city should increase taxes for its schools, and the state should also spend far more on education. He notes that Illinois ranks last nationally in school funding. “That’s an absolute atrocious joke,” he says.
– from the Chicago Reader’s September 24, 2013 cover story “Three families tell us why they ditched CPS”
Dear Sandro (and Steve Bogira, who should know better),
I thought the portrait of you and your family sketched out by the writer Steve Borgia in the above referenced article was absolutely delightful. You, your wife and your daughters would make great neighbors up here on the northwest side (where you should have moved in the first place so you had a good local elementary school and high school — but you would have missed out on some city amenities, so I guess it might not have been worth it for you and your wife and at the time). Anyway, I think you make an excellent point about the home environment of our State’s children, even better than you realize. Because quite frankly, there is not much that even the best school can do for kids who don’t have the smarts or come from screwed up homes. And even more quite frankly, you are going to find a lot of those kids on the south and west sides of Chicago — and spending more money on those kids isn’t going to help one bit.
In addition, it is very misleading for you say “the state should also spend far more on education…Illinois ranks last nationally in school funding”. Most common-sense, fair readings of those statements would suggest that on a per-pupil basis, Illinois spends less than other states on education — which is not true. Steve Bogira’s sneaky link tells the real story — Illinois happens to fund schools mostly through property taxes rather than some sort of state sales tax or the lottery (although we use those methods as well). But if you check out this link you find that Illinois is actually ranked number 22 out of 50 states with respect to per-pupil spending — and it is worth pointing out that number 2 is the well-functioning, high-achieving schools of Washington DC and number 50 is the cesspit of crumbling schools and burnouts living in the state of Utah (can you detect a hint of sarcasm — if not, you should). Can you tell me anything different about the schools in Utah and DC besides the fact that Utah spends only $6,212 per student and DC spends almost three times as much at $18,475? And what’s funny about both Utah and DC is that neither system is particularly diverse — but one gets good outcomes and one doesn’t. I wonder why…