Let’s forget for a minute that we didn’t just go through a bruising gubernatorial election in which the press asserted that a) Pat Quinn spent more money on education – not less; b) Chicago Public Schools, the bane of the Illinois education establishment, are markedly better – not worse; and c) Don’t believe for a minute the hokum that Bruce Rauner, the Illinois Policy Institute and others are saying about charter schools. We’ll get to all that in a minute.
The big question for readers (and taxpayers) is this: What, if anything, do reporters really know about education? If they’re honest, most reporters would say, “Not very much.”
In short, when it comes to education, reporters are basically stenographers. They take what’s given to them, put it in the reverse-pyramid style they were all taught in journalism school (along with a revisionist history of the U.S. Constitution), and make it all sound good. Adding insult to injury, reporters – most all of whom are a member of a trade union – favor what’s handed to them by their brethren in the teachers union.
We bring all this up because there’s a piece in today’s Chicago Sun-Times, headlined, “State sees some progress for students, but not poor kids: report.”
Even the headline tells you that all journalist Lauren Fitzpatrick has done is taken what’s been given to her by Advance Illinois and write a story. Never mind that it contradicts most everything the press told us during the governor’s race that, not coincidentally, aided Pat Quinn and pilloried Bruce Rauner. Fitzpatrick writes:
Illinois has made some modest progress educating public schoolchildren overall since 2012, but needs to do a better job of educating its poor children.
And that’s a problem now that low-income children make up more than half of Illinois public school children, while state investment in education has been dwindling, according to a new report to be published Thursday by Advance Illinois that’s designed to take a “hard look” every two years at the state of learning in Illinois.
We’re not going to rehash the whole thing here again, but those opening graphs basically contradict everything that the press giddily gleaned from a University of Minnesota study that dinged charter schools and said Chicago Public Schools were doing a darn fine job of educating poor and minority kids. Oh…and what the press didn’t tell you, but Illinois Mirror did? The Minnesota study, released near the end of a neck-and-neck gubernatorial race, was paid for by the less-than-objective Chicago Teachers Union.
Back to the story on the newest study:
Illinois already ranks among the bottom nationwide for state education funding, contributing just about a quarter of public education spending. Other states contribute about half.
We’ve already disputed this in a previous post. According to federal data for the most-recent school year available, Illinois ranks 16th in terms of per pupil spending, one of the Holiest of education-funding measurement. The stat used in the story is wrong; it was trotted out by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at his press conference a week after the election in which he said, “Well, if the state does keep the personal income tax rate at 5% (something not yet decided), Chicago is certainly going to demand its cut of the pie.”
Here are a few other key points from the study that the Sun-Times basically reprinted without challenge:
Overall, though, Chicago’s scores remained low. Thirty-some percent of Illinois students scored as “proficient.” The percentage of Chicago students started in the teens in 2003 and ended up right around 20 percent in 2013, well below the state’s average.
Low-income fourth-graders scored a whopping 36 points lower on average in reading than the rest of Illinois’ fourth graders on the 2013 National Association of Educational Procurement tests.
About 36 percent of eighth-graders scored as proficient in math but just 18 percent of low-income students did. High school graduation rates are 82 percent statewide but only 73 percent for low-income students.
And here’s the most damning fact, given what was said in the governor’s race:
State funding, which has always fallen short of the amount recommended by the state’s Education Finance Advisory Board, has declined in real dollars by 10 percent since 2004. Illinois currently spends $2,500 less per child than the recommended $8,672, according to Advance.
You can go here and read the whole thing for yourself.
In the meantime, we’ll keep watching…and reporting.