Panel critiques charter schools, talks potential impact of Trump administration on education inequity


Claire Pak/The Daily Northwestern

Carolyne Guo and Steffany Bahamon discuss education inequality at a panel Tuesday night. The event was hosted by Northwestern’s chapter of Teach For America and Net Impact.

Emily Chaiet, Reporter

With the recent confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, panelists at an event Tuesday criticized DeVos’ advocacy for charter schools nationwide, analyzing their impact on education inequity.

Addressing an audience of about 60 people in Annenberg Hall, the three panelists discussed why there is inequity within the education system and what can be done to alleviate it.

The event was hosted by Northwestern’s chapter of Teach for America and Net Impact, a nonprofit membership organization that encourages students and professionals to use business skills in addressing social and environmental issues. The panelists included Weinberg junior Carolyne Guo, McCormick senior Steffany Bahamon and education advocate Mark Pawloski, co-founder of Upkey, a startup that helps low-income college students find job opportunities with major companies.

The panelists, discussing how education will be affected by President Donald Trump’s administration, debated whether additional charter schools would improve or further exacerbate education inequity.

Pawloski said he sees the benefit of having charter schools but does not believe that public schools should be eliminated in favor of “privatization.” Students and families should have “school choice,” he said.

In addition to expressing concern about potentially losing a diverse selection of schools, Guo, operations manager of Supplies for Dreams, said she was concerned about charter schools taking away students and funding from public schools.

“Maybe the good public schools will have the money and the students (to spare), but the public schools that are struggling the most are in danger of shutting down,” Guo said.

Aside from charter schools, Bahamon, president of NU Quest Scholars, also said child grants and student loans could be impacted by the Trump administration’s actions. Speaking to her own experience of owing “$30,000 to her dear Uncle Sam,” Bahamon said she is especially worried about public financial aid.

Despite concerns about the changing education environment, the panelists called on Northwestern students to take an active role in fighting education inequity by joining campus organizations and voting in local school board elections.

“It’s the small things,” Guo said. “You can volunteer and go on a field trip, which is just three hours of your time, but you’re still impacting some students.”

SESP sophomore Ruthie Charendoff, who attended the event, said she enjoyed learning more about the “day-to-day actions” of different organizations on campus that aim to improve education opportunities for Chicago students.

The goal of the panel was to bring different community partners together to work toward a solution to education inequity, said event organizer Stephanie Fox, a Teach for America campus ambassador.

“It’s crazy that this is the first time we’re all sitting in the same room and talking about our efforts and how we can work together,” the SESP senior said. “This is just the first step in what I hope is a long process of collaborating.”

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