By REBECCA VEVEA
In the wake of news that a Chicago charter school network receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from fees on student misconduct, some educators are raising questions about the fairness of the practice.
Students at Noble Street schools are given demerits for a list of infractions as varied as “not looking a teacher in the eye” or “chewing gum.” Four demerits bring a three-hour after-school detention and a $5 fine. Students with 12 or more detentions must take a behavior-improvement course for $140.
Last year the Noble Street Charter School Network collected $188,647 in fines, which it calls fees, from the 10 high schools it operates. Since the 2008-9 school year, the organization has collected $386,745 in detention fees and behavior classes. The findings were released this week by the Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, a student-led advocacy group, Parents United for Responsible Education, a parents’ rights organization, and Advancement Project, a civil rights legal action group.
Michael Milkie, chief executive of the Noble network, said the money “only partially defrays the costs associated with detention.” In an e-mail, he defended Noble, writing that students who misbehave should “share in the cost of addressing their behavior.”
Parents and students who released the findings called the discipline practices “draconian,” “totalitarian” and “appalling.”
“The punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” said Donna Moore, whose son Joshua attends Noble’s Gary Comer College Prep campus.
Though Noble officials say waivers and payment plans are available, 90 percent of students are low-income, raising questions about the affordability of discipline fees.
Director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Kevin Welner, said that if the fees “push away more disadvantaged kids or more disruptive kids, that becomes highly problematic.
The real question is, ‘How do we create a charter school sector that is healthy and does good things, while placing reasonable restrictions on policies that push kids away and exclude kids?’ ”
The discipline fees are “a short-term pain for a long-term gain,”
Mr. Milkie said, and do not compare to the millions of dollars in scholarships Noble students receive each year.
Read some parents feeling regarding this type of discipline in New York Daily