To the Editor:
The Chicago Region PTA takes issue with comments by Harvey Grossman, the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, regarding his arguments before the federal court considering a consent decree on desegregation in Chicago (“End Near for Chicago Desegregation Decree,” May 17, 2006).
He is quoted in your article as saying in an interview that “generally the schools in white neighborhoods are better equipped” and given more money by PTAs and other private sources than schools in predominantly minority areas of the city. It is our understanding that this statement was meant to show disagreement with the Chicago public school system’s placement of minority students for the purpose of desegregation.
While PTAs do engage in fund raising, it is important to note that there are other parent-teacher groups that were formerly PTAs that now have become PTOs, or parent-teacher organizations, with the approval of their members and encouragement from education personnel. This change allows them to retain membership dues within a school, rather than be affiliated with a state and national organization.
We believe such fund raising from private sources is not at this time a serious deterrent to the educational achievement of minority students. The few white neighborhoods that are “better equipped,” in Mr. Grossman’s estimation, do not suffice to overcome the inadequacy of funding in the public schools.
The Chicago Region PTA has supported desegregation, and participated in the 1980 efforts to arrive at a desegregation plan. It appears that the ACLU of Illinois, continuing in its efforts to desegregate when white students make up only 9 percent of the student population, would be willing to require the Chicago public school system to allocate funds for a legal means to do so, rather than for educational purposes.
Our group supports the Illinois PTA’s efforts to secure adequate and equitable funding from the state legislature that will ensure a quality education for all children. We also make the point to our members that local PTA fund raising could contribute to creating inequities between public schools when carried to extremes.
Chicago Region PTA
A version of this article appeared in the June 21, 2006 edition of Education Week as Disagreeing on Chicago’s School Funding Inequities