The charter schools recently ordered to close by Chicago Public Schools say they’re not done fighting to exist past June — and it turns out they have an option to appeal to the state.
And if the two schools for which charters were voted to be revoked or the one that was not renewed make a case to the Illinois Charter School Commission, it’ll mark the first time the relatively new commission would take up the case of an existing charter school.
Until now, the commission — with nine members nominated by the governor and approved by the Illinois State Board of Education — has considered only new charter operators that want to start publicly funded but privately managed schools, said Hosanna Jones, the commission’s head. CPS denied a number of new applicants this fall, and Monday marks their deadline, she said.
The three schools — Amandla Charter High School, 6800 S. Stewart; Betty Shabazz-Barbara A. Sizemore Academy Elementary School, 6936 S. Hermitage; and Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter Elementary School, 8 W. Root St.; and possibly a fourth if the Board of Education in December approves a CPS recommendation to close CICS-Larry Hawkins in Altgeld Gardens — will have to respond to CPS’ rationale and “say why they think the district made a mistake in the decision,” Jones said.
The schools also will have to show they’re prepared to essentially become their own school districts, she said.
“There’s other things they would have to do on their own that CPS may have been doing for them,” Jones said, citing busing as an example. “And that’s a big one. Some people don’t expect it, and then they have to redo their budget to make sure they can afford it.”
“You have more responsibility if you get approved on appeal,” she added, though schools also receive more money directly from the state than if they were part of CPS.
As of late last week, Jones said all three schools had contacted the commission but none had appealed. She noted that they have 30 days from the Board of Education’s closure votes on Nov. 18 to file.
Betty Shabazz, which has other campuses under CPS’ authority, plans to take its case to the commission, officials told the Chicago Sun-Times last week.
“We are still in the planning stages, but we definitely plan to pursue all options of appeal available to us,” said Carol Lee, Shabazz’ board president.
The Afrocentric charter said it was not treated fairly in the process CPS changed late this fall.
Amandla Charter School wouldn’t commit. “We are still consulting with our stakeholders and considering all of our options, including filing an appeal with the commission,” Principal Jennifer Kirmes said.
Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School, with a charter about to expire, has already filed an injunction in Cook County Circuit Court accusing CPS of violating its contract.
“CPS has the authority to make decisions with regards to the school’s performance, but there’s a process that’s outlined in the contract that the district says they’ll follow when making that decision,” said Eric Gleason, the school’s attorney. “We don’t believe that process was followed.”
He declined to say whether Bronzeville Lighthouse would seek the commission’s help.
Andrew Broy, head of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, says many members of the commission are too new to guess at an outcome.
In the past, “it’s been the case that low-quality [charters] sent up to the commission have not been approved. That’s been the history of the commission to date.”
Of the 42 appeals the commission has received, 36 withdrew. Of the remaining six, three were approved and three denied, according to the commission.
“What sets the three existing schools apart is that that they have an operating track record,” Broy said.
Broy said the Illinois Network of Charter Schools has met with the schools “and have been very clear that INCS stands for quality,” so he would not say how much support it might lend.
“We haven’t made a decision on that yet. We have to look at all the facts,” he said. “While we’ve been critical of the CPS process about this, these schools have had some quality issues over the past few years.”
Meanwhile, Broy said, the network is concerned about where students will end up: “We’re working with the schools directly to make sure the transition isn’t hard on families.”