Here's my speech from the Board of Ed meeting in Chicago on 2-22-12. I ad-libbed a bit during the actual meeting, but you get the idea:
Hello, my name is Katie Osgood. I have a pretty unique job. I work as a teacher on a child/adolescent inpatient unit at a psychiatric hospital here in Chicago and I am here today to speak on behalf of my students with mental health issues.
My students come from all over Chicagoland and are of all ages. In my classroom, I’ve had students from neighborhood schools, charter schools, turnaround schools, private school, selective enrollment schools, suburban schools, alternative schools and sometimes no schools at all. My job allows me a unique birds-eye view of what is happening in our schools.
And I do not like what I see.
Many of my students have pretty significant behavioral and mental health problems. Many also have a history of acting out in class and of academic failure.
And when I hear that CPS is investing in charter schools and turnaround schools as some sort of “solution”, I cringe!
I have heard too many stories from my students on how they “used to” go to charter school. How they “used to” go to a turnaround. I hear their personal stories and it is heart-breaking. They tell me they can’t go to those schools anymore because of behavior issues. These schools are NOT serving our neediest students.
When a charter school or a turnaround school sees my students, they see liabilities. They see lower test scores, they see behavior problems, they see expenses. To them, these kids damage the “brand”.
But when I see my students, I see intelligent, kind, funny, talented, creative, artistic, passionate young people. Yes, they talk back sometimes. Yes, they get in trouble and make bad decisions. But where I work we don’t charge them $5, we don’t kick them out of the program saying “you don’t fit in”. We help them.
In my hospital setting, with intensive interventions like small classes, numerous social workers, nurses, doctors, and a well-trained EXPERIENCED staff, these kids can thrive
But in order to succeed, my kids need the most resources, and instead CPS gives them the least.
CPS invests in charters and turnarounds which push my students out and then grossly underfunds the schools that do take them. My students repeatedly tell me stories of having no books, no libraries, huge classes of 40+ kids, and little art or music in their neighborhood schools. What kind of “choice” is that?
Fully resource every school and you will never have to close a school again.
(My speech starts around 15:30)