Letter to Rev. Jesse Jackson: There’s a Revolt Against Testing and Charters But It’s Not Coming From Parents

In a recent Sun-Times column, Charters and Heavy Testing Hurt Our Schools, the Rev. Jesse Jackson boldly proclaims that parents across the country are “revolting” against standardized testing and teacher accountability and marching against public charter schools.

Well, there is a revolt against testing but it is not coming from parents. The fact is, when the tests were only about judging students and schools, there was no revolt. It wasn’t until the tests were used to evaluate teachers that the “revolt” really took off.

As for all of the parents marching against the expansion of public school choice, where are they?

At the last meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, there was a group of parents marching to demand that the district continue to expand the number of high quality public schools. And what was the chant from the counter-protest comprising union teachers and Chicago Teachers Union staff? “Save our teachers!”

Rev. Jackson is right that there is an “Education Spring” afoot in our nation, but he missed the mark because it’s not the folks carrying picket signs outside of school district board meetings. The real “Education Spring” is driven by nearly 3 million mostly low-income black and Hispanic families who have chosen to enroll in public charter schools across America.

They have traded picket signs for enrollment forms and mass rallies for large school options fairs. And they are demanding for their children the great civil right of our time, a high-quality public education.

An earlier version of this post appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Photo of Parents and students rally in July for a charter school, courtesy Brian Jackson for the Sun-Times.
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Chris Butler is first a husband and a dad. He has been involved across the spectrum of public engagement activities and has worked with a number of diverse constituencies in urban and suburban communities. He has also been involved in several political campaigns including his service as a youth and young adult coordinator for Barack Obama’s primary bid for U.S. Senate. Chris worked as deputy campaign manager and field director for A+ Illinois where he developed a strong, statewide field operation including over 500 organizations and 50,000 individuals around the state working to bring adequacy and equity to Illinois’ school funding system and as the director of advocacy and outreach at New Schools for Chicago, a leader in school reform in Chicago. Chris is a 2006 graduate of the Ministry Training Institute and holds a degree in civic and political engagement from Northeastern Illinois University.