When the student organizers from Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) aren't out protesting high-stakes testing and school closures in their city, they're fighting for fair discipline in their schools. In particular, they've started campaigning this past week to end disparate discipline policies in Chicago's charter schools.
Across the country, most charters aren't subject to the same oversight of their use of suspensions and expulsions as local neighborhood schools. Through the use of harsh discipline policies and "counseling out," charter schools push out struggling kids from their student body. The result: charters serve a disproportionately lower number of English language learners and students with disabilities than local neighborhood schools.
VOYCE has released a fact sheet comparing expulsions rates in Chicago's Public Schools with those of two major charter networks in the city. Nobel Network's expulsion rate is 7.6 times higher than CPS. Perspectives Charter Schools' is almost 16 times higher. From the fact sheet:
"This is an issues of civil rights, transparency and public accountability. Charter schools can't claim to be 'nonselective' and 'higher-performing' public schools while relying on expulsion to systematically choose which students they will educate with taxpayer dollars."
It's worth noting that while the district is planning to close 50 of its public schools next year, it is also green-lighting the expansion of charters across the city – which makes VOYCE's work all the more critical to ensuring every student has access to the same learning opportunities.
The National Education Policy Center has more on charters' enrollment and disciplinary practices in its brief "The Dirty Dozen: How Charter Schools Influence Student Enrollment."