What to say if your family thinks you have Betsy DeVos on speed dial

We know that if you’re reading this you care deeply about the importance of a great education. You may even consider yourself a champion for progressive values and social justice causes.

Even so, Thanksgiving is rolling around, and you’re dreading that moment when Aunt Karen or Uncle Joe asks you or your school has Betsy DeVos on speed dial.

That’s a joke, but all kidding aside – most of us have a family member or a friend who thinks charter schools are bad for public education. Or a tool for a Republican agenda. Or something else that doesn’t represent the hard-working educators who are a part of your school community.

Here is what you can say during those uncomfortable moments when you find yourself defending your support of charter public schools:

Remind your family that President Obama was a strong supporter of charter public schools. 

From 2008-2016, the Obama administration promoted the national growth of high-performing charter schools. In fact, planning to promote the expansion of charter public schools was one of the ways that states could win some of the money in President Obama’s signature $4.3 billion Race to the Top funding competition. By the time President Obama left office, 6 percent of U.S. public school students attended charter public schools, up from about 3 percent when he took office in 2009. So when you think back on the magical days of the Obama administration, know that charter public schools were a major part of that progressive, people-first agenda.

Share the REAL results that Chicago’s charter public schools produce for students.

Charter schools are free, public schools open to all children, including students who are English Language Learners and students with special needs. The difference is that instead of being run by the school district, they’re run by an independent nonprofit.

Charter schools do not have special entrance requirements and do not “cherry-pick” their students. They have the freedom to be innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.

Chicago’s charters have delivered outstanding results for kids in Chicago. Compared to the educational gains that charter students would have had in a traditional public school, study after study shows that on average, students in Illinois charter schools make larger learning gains in both reading and math. Check out the studies here and here for more specific facts to have in your back pocket.

Share why you chose a charter public school and what the work at your school looks like. 

You all have a different reason why you chose to work at a charter public school or send your child to one. The school’s mission may really speak to you. You may have had a poor experience at a traditional public school and wanted something better for your kids. You may come from a world of privilege, where your families chose a home in a high-performing school district, and you want all families to have the ability to choose an excellent school for their kids. Regardless of your personal “why,” it is important. Aunt Karen can’t fight with your personal feelings on this matter.

On top of that, Aunt Karen probably has no idea what a charter public school day actually looks like. She might only know from what she reads in the news (e.g. silent students in lines, strict discipline, hours of test prep, etc.). But let her know about the morning advisory class that feels more like family. Let her know about the orchestra or sports teams that your students enjoy. Tell her about the community service projects that your school family enjoys.

For any other questions, take a look at our “Charters 101” fact page or send Aunt Karen there if you need to!