Monday, July 31, 2006

National Disgrace: Oprah Highlights Illinois Education Gap

Today's Oprah Show featured a ballyhooed interview with Bill and Melinda Gates and a segment which focused on the education gap here in Illinois. Oprah organized a student exchange which allowed kids from Chicago's Harper High to spend the day at a high school in Naperville and brought the Naperville kids to Chicago for a day.

Here's what they learned:

When the Harper students arrived at Neuqua Valley, they were stunned to see what the suburban school offered—an Olympic-size swimming pool, a gym and fitness center, an award-winning music department, a huge computer lab, and a rigorous course curriculum.

When they arrived at Harper, the students from Neuqua Valley were shocked immediately by the difference between Harper and their own school. For starters, students have to enter Harper through a metal detector. They have a pool at Neuqua Valley, but the Harper pool hasn't been filled with water in a decade. The Neuqua Valley students have an award-winning music department, while Harper doesn't have enough instruments for a music class and relies on improvised instruments—like banging on desks. At Neuqua Valley, students can enroll in more than two dozen advanced placement courses, compared to the two offered at Harper. "It's so mind-blowing to think that there's such a difference and we're both in the same state, an hour away from each other," one Neuqua Valley student says.

The difference between the two schools can also be seen in their scores on state exams. At Neuqua Valley, 78 percent of students meet Illinois' reading standards, 76 percent meet the science standards, and 77 percent meet the math standards. At Harper, 16 percent meet the reading standards, 1.5 percent meet the science standards and just .5 percent meet the math standards.
Meanwhile this little nugget from the Sun-Times' Ralph Martire is bound to catch the attention of Oprah and civil rights leaders across Illinois:
The Illinois data are as bad or worse. In K-12 education, Illinois ranks as the third most segregated state for blacks, with 82 percent of black children attending majority minority schools. Latinos don't fare much better, as 76 percent of Latino children attend predominantly minority schools. Ninety percent of white kids go to virtually all-white schools. Clearly, the Illinois school system is still separated by race, but is it now more equal by race? Not from a funding standpoint. Minority school districts in Illinois start out with $1,154 less per child to spend on education than do predominantly white school districts, the second worst funding gap nationally (emphasis added).
Too bad Senator Meeks didn't have that newsclip in his pocket when he marched on the Mayor's office last week. He might have marched to Governor Blagojevich's office instead to find out why the state is spending nearly $14,000 more on average on the public education of white children. I'd love to hear the Governor explain that one.


Jonah 8:31 PM  

YDD, the state of Illinois is not spending an average of 14 grand on white students, never mind 14 grand more per student.
As for segregation, Chicago schools are certainly segregated but the article is kind of misleading. If all Chicago schools had exactly replicated Chicago's racial composition, then all Chicago students would be in minority-majority schools!
Chicago is minority white, and the minorities in Illinois are concentrated into Chicago and a few of the suburbs.,_Illinois

Anonymous,  9:42 PM  

Blago and Daley are both terrible and terrible hypocrites on education.

Daniel Darling 11:18 PM  

Here is my problem with an Oprah show like this. She's right in hilighting the terrible discrepancies between rich and poor districts, but they always end up wanting to take more taxpayer money, instead of real solutions that will solve the problem.

I don't see Oprah giving any of her money to this districts. No, they want to yank the money out of the pocket of the hard-working middle class.

This is why I think school choice is an absolute no-brainer. This would level the playing field and give poor kids the chance to take their voucher and use it at the school of their choice. Create some competition and force those bad schools to get better.

Anonymous,  6:26 AM  

What about the discrepencies in where people live? Take a stroll down 63rd and Cottage Grove Avenue. Tour some of the slums there.

The go take a tour of Oprah's Hancock Center Gold Coast home. You will be the difference of how people live & opportunities afforded to them.

Shame on you Illinois for allowing such discrepencies. I really hope something can be done about this.

Anonymous,  7:57 AM  

To be fair to Oprah, (and I am for School Choice and don't believe more money is the answer) she does give a lot of money to help others.
I do not watch her show, was not a fan of Dr. Phil (But I did read his book on Family and it was excellent it was given to me as a gift and I was surprised how good it was)
Oprah does do a lot of good

Anonymous,  8:06 AM  

It's called property taxes YDD, not too hard to figure out.

JB Powers 8:17 AM  

Question to the general audience..aren't teachers salaries generally higher in Chicago than the rest of Illinois? Isn't spending per student much higher in Chicago than downstate?

So, if we are not getting results in the City, why do we continue with the current Education monopoly system?


Pat Hickey 9:10 AM  

As always, The Daily Southtown gets into real journalism and not mythopoeic construction.

e.g. -

This is root of the problem. The branches are the kids being left in the dust by Education Reform.

Levois 11:11 AM  

I used to have to go through a metal detector at school. I understood why we had to but even I knew this wasn't right. This had to have been an interesting field trip for those suburban kids. There is definitely a problem that has to be addressed.

Pat Hickey 12:38 PM  


When you complete your studies, drop us a note at Leo. we can always use a bright committed young teacher.

Anonymous,  2:40 PM  

"To be fair to Oprah, she does give a lot of money to help others."

And yet inequality still exists. I'd venture to say she should give more. Lots and lots more until the inequalities of 63rd & Cottage Grove and the Gold Coast are balanced out.

PalosParkBob 5:30 PM  

Here's a little "education" quiz.
Guess which case represents the "rich, white" school system and which represents the "poor, shortchanged minority" schools from the two districts Oprah compared:

District "A" has an average adminstrator salary of $104K per year and has one adminstrator for every 220 students. District "B"'s average administrator salary is more than $8K less and there are about 50% less adminstrators per hundred students.

Teachers in district "A" make about $61,178 per nine months, while District "B" teachers average about $3,200 less per nine months.

District "A" averages spending $9,564 per student in operating costs each year, while District "B" only spends $8,666 per student.

As you probably guessed, District A is the "poor and underfunded" Chicago public schools, like Harper, and District B is the "White and Wealthy" Indian Prairie (Naperville)District 204,whihc contains the "palacial" Nequa Valley and Waubaunsee HS.

Gee, I wonder why Oprah, Bill Gates, and Jesse Jackson didn't choose to "educate" the audience about these facts? I guess they don't like to get people questioning why our children are being cheated by the educational bureaucracy. It's much more "warm and fuzzy" to claim schools are underfunded, and the State needs to dig deeper into your pockets to fed the public "Edumonster"!

Michael 8:41 PM  

Your analysis doesn't take capital spending into account, Bob. The main focus of that piece was on the drastic difference in the physical infrastructure. The percentage differences in operating costs and salaries that you are citing - 9% and 5%, respectively - are not huge when you consider the increased cost of living in Chicago compared to Naperville.

I'm not saying that the management of the Chicago Public Schools isn't seriously dysfunctional in many respects. The teachers' union needs to become less hidebound and consider varying its salary structure to attract better teachers to worse schools. But at the end of the day, you're putting lipstick on a pig without more money.

Also, there are 50% fewer administrators, because administrators are discrete.

darryl,  5:49 AM  


The STATE does not spend $14,000 per pupil. The state has a base amount it gives, the local property taxpayer in Winnetka, Highland Park, etc., realizing the value of a good education, taxes themselves the amount over what the state pays, in order to provide what is needed for their children to get ahead.

PalosParkBob 8:41 AM  


The condition maintenance of existing schools is largely funded out of the "maintenance and operations" budget included in the $9,564 per student. That fund is used to keep schools painted, roofs in good shape, and equipment in good repair.

Capital projects, which may be funded from either maintenance and operations or capital improvement financing, are mainly for new schools, major renovations, and additions.

The most dishonest thing about Oprah's story was she was doing an "apples and oranges" comparison. There are many fine, new schools in Chicago of the same age as Nequa or Waubaunsee that would have been a fairer comparison.

If she'd showed Whitney Young, Payton or Northside prep, however, her viewers would have asked, "So what's so bad about that?"

In case you didn't know, schools like Whitney Young are not just competitive with Naperville, they're consistently competitive with New Trier.

Had she compared Harper (from which my Mom graduated in the 1930s) with a similarly aged school in the Burbs such as Thornton, who spends about $4,000 per student more per year than the Naperville district, her viewers would have seen that spending and value given to students in a district are two very different things.

Comparison with Thornton would have shown that overspending without effective leadership and organizational dedication to giving the students the education they deserve, and for which communties pay, would have addressed the real problems in education today; lack of student centered leadership and a complete lack of accountability in public education in Illinois.

Of course, Oprah is all about sympathy and ethos, not about reason, honesty, and real problem solving.

Anonymous,  5:56 PM  

Politics in Chicago, does not help the situation in our school system. When the alderman are allowed to give themselves raises when they see fit, and everyone else has to fight for raises it is a total insult. There is also the problem of Local School Councils, that in most cases, persons serving on these board do not have the proper training to have the power given them; anyone can serve on this board such as, drug addicts, dropouts, felons etc. This is state mandated, but only in Chicago. Why?

There is also no stability in the school's. Administrators are replaced every four or less years. Not because of there inability to run a school, but in many cases, due to personal reasons on the councils behalf, or in some cases downtown administrators, because they want their friends and relatives in place.

I have also come to the conclusion that our priorities are totally out of wack. There was a time when teachers where respected, not any longer. We give more respect to entertainers and sports figures and pay them more. Yet, teachers had some input for where they are today. People continue to blame teachers, when there is enough blame to go around for everyone. Teachers have just become the scapegoats.

In Chicago, it is more important to plant trees, host the olympics build amusment and ball parks. These entertainment arenas, in many cases are not utilized by the poor; they can't afford, therefore they don't get the exposure. Many just stay in their neighborhoods and try to survive the daily gangs and drug traffic. Many don't attend school for that reason.

Schools are not going to be successful if you don't have parental support. Look at the statistics. In most cases, that's the problem with inner city schools. The children are raising themselves and they nor their parents are made accountable. The truancy rates, for whatever reason, are high in many of the schools. You can not give instruction if the students are not present. It sad to say, many who attend school come without needed supplies, hungry, they don't do homework and they are discipline problems. The teacher bashing has to stop. Inner city school teachers have more to contend with than their surburban colleagues. As a matter of fact, that's probably why so many surburban teachers choose not to teach in the city; they couldn't handle the stress. Contrary to belief, your best teachers are in the inner city; they have to teach the whole child. Not to mention they have to be mother, father, nurse, counselor....the list goes on.

On a more positive note:
There is at least one school on the southside, that no one seems to recognize, that has the parental support needed to be successful, but I haven't heard anyone mention it. The School is Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy. These students, parents faculty and administrators need to be recognized. Brooks students top the state in most categories.

As far as Ophrah is concern, she is a total inspiration and she does her fair share. Could she do more? Probably but so can the rest of us; what have our so-called politicians been doing? Filling their pockets, because they claim they work so hard. Doing what? No one works any harder than the teachers in Chicago. Do we have bad apples?
Who doesn't. Take a look at your PRESIDENT!!!

CTA Bus Status

There was an error in this gadget
There was an error in this gadget

  © Blogger template The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP