Parents explore options at New Schools Expo

January 29, 2011 4:21:34 PM PST
Thousands of parents and students from across Chicago attended the fourth annual New Schools Expo Saturday.

They were there searching for quality school options in the city, including the growing charter school option.

While some of the parents who attended the day-long New Schools Expo did so out of frustration over their child's current education system, others were curious about the choices available to them.

The bottom line for most parents, when it comes to their kid's educational future, is about choice.

"I really like the idea of having choices," said parent Joseph Hester.

There are plenty of choices at this year's New Schools Expo for Margaret Annette, especially after her son Richard's experience in a traditional educational setting.

"It's really boring. It's always the same stuff. There's nothing exciting to do," Richard Annette said.

This year's expo gave thousands of families from around the Chicago area access to over a hundred new schools including charter schools.

Tim King is the founder of the much talked about Urban Prep Academies charter school in Englewood.

"Students are randomly selected to enroll so we don't look at test scores and we don't look at grades to be admitted to a charter school," King said.

Sponsors say although demand is growing for charter schools, Saturday's expo was not about pitting a traditional public school education against the charter school model.

"Charter schools are Chicago Public Schools, contract schools. They are all open to the public, they all receive CPS money, so we just see this as an option in the district," said Whitney Spalding with Chicago Public Schools.

Also Saturday morning, there was talk about the community's role in quality public education.

"It's not about the union versus the teachers and charter versus public. It's more about parent involvement inside your child's education," said education advocate Atiyah Colbert

Some parents like Liza Koves, who has been homeschooling her son Victor expressed frustration with the current system.

"There is a wide spectrum of children who are not rich, but are smart and over-achievers, and I do not see options for them," Koves said.

Some students did apply for admission on the spot as freshman Kwantel Frazier reminded everyone about how important a good education is.

"You want your child to go to college. That's where we want them at," Frazier said.

While there was not a lot of talk about the use of educational vouchers, there was plenty of conversation about how education in funded in Illinois.

Most at Saturday's expo agree that correcting that disparity is a big step in improving public education in the state.