Stacy Davis Gates: ‘unfair choice’ leads to private school for her child

Stacy Davis Gates: ‘unfair choice’ leads to private school for her child

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates said her child is in private school because the public schools lack resources. So why would she want to force low-income families into those schools?

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates is justifying her child attending a private high school because it offers better opportunities compared to the local public high school, which she said has suffered from disinvestment and needs better funding.

“In many of our schools on the South Side and the West Side, the course offerings are very marginal and limited. Then the other thing, and it was a very strong priority, was his ability to participate in co-curricular and extracurricular activities, which quite frankly, don’t exist in many of the schools, high schools in particular,” Davis Gates told WBEZ.

Still, she wants to deny that choice to low-income students who depend on a scholarship program to make the same move to a private school. Invest in Kids encourages donors to fund private-school scholarships for low-income students, but it dies at the end of 2023 if Davis Gates and other teachers unions get their way.

Eleven students received help from the Invest in Kids program this past school year to attend the same private high school Davis Gates’ child now attends. They will lose those scholarships if the program is not extended by the Illinois General Assembly during the fall veto session, starting Oct. 24. The conversation between Davis Gates and those 11 families might get interesting.

Davis Gates’ public high school choice did, indeed, seem dismal. It wasn’t for a lack of money.

Her child’s neighborhood public school would have been Harlan Community Academy High School. It spent $22,531 on each of its 297 students in fiscal year 2022. The Chicago Public Schools average was $17,107.

Extra money did not yield academic results.

None of Harlan’s 11th graders showed proficiency in math on the SAT. Only 2.7% were proficient in reading.

There seems to be a lot of money for Chicago schools. How it gets spent is often a result of CTU demands – with Davis Gates leading them.

District spending has grown significantly, from just under $6 billion in 2019 to nearly $8.5 billion in the current school year. Chicago Public Schools spent about $4,400 per student more than the state average in 2021.

Chicago Public Schools has been prohibited by the CTU contract from closing underused schools. Over half of the schools are underutilized. One-third of them are less than half full.

Still, Davis Gates falsely claims school choice takes away from public school funding.

“Our neighborhoods have basically been robbed of everything,” Davis Gates said.

The question is, then why does Davis Gates want to trap impoverished children in schools to which she refuses to send her own child?

Invest in Kids offers a 75% state income tax credit for donors who fund private school scholarships for low-income children. Credits are capped at $75 million a year but tend to average about $50 million. That’s less than 1% of annual state spending on K-12 public education. By contrast, state funding for K-12 public schools has risen by $1.98 billion since Invest in Kids started in 2017, with almost all new funding going to districts with high percentages of students from low-income families.

A family choosing a private school pays twice: once to the private school and a second time through property taxes that support the public schools. One study a decade ago found private school scholarships save public schools $3,000-per-student by removing the need to educate a student for whom tax revenue was still being provided.

As both the president of CTU and a vice president of its national affiliate American Federation of Teachers, Davis Gates is an advocate for public schools and critic of school choice on the national stage. Her private decision for her child is certainly understandable, but her criticism of 11 other families in that school – and thousands of other low-income families receiving scholarships throughout the state – is not.

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