For the first time in years — and during a mayoral re-election race the president of the Chicago Teachers Union might join — Chicago Public Schools officials said Thursday they are not planning to recommend any new charter schools to open in 2015.
The district, which by state law must issue a request for new schools every year, won’t accept proposals until December, spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, adding, “To ensure adequate time for the process, that RFP would accept applications for schools to open no sooner than the fall of 2016.”
That likely means no fighting over charter schools this winter as the mayoral campaign ramps up.
CTU president Karen Lewis, who is still pondering a run against Mayor Rahm Emanuel in February, has been Emanuel’s loudest critic as his handpicked school board approved the historic closure in June 2013 of 50 neighborhood schools in predominantly black neighborhoods. Simultaneously, CPS kept opening new charters and increasing funding to the ones already opened.
Several schools, including a beleaguered Concept Charter school, already are in the hopper to open next fall but have been delayed for a variety of reasons. Some await final approval from the board; Intrinsic Schools wants to open a second campus on the Northwest Side; and Chicago Education Partnership wants to open one on the West Side. CPS asked both operators for more information about their academics.
Concept lost its first proposed facility in Chatham after a federal investigation into its operations surfaced, and it couldn’t prepare its second in time to open for the 2014-15 school year.
The LEARN and UNO charter chains are approved to open elementary schools, and Aspira also plans to open a new high school it is currently constructing.
McCaffrey credited the delay to the district having just completed its last round of approving new schools in June and developing rules for the next one. Last year’s request for new schools started in August.
State law requires that CPS put out a request for new schools but not that it approve any to open.
The Illinois Network of Charter Schools expressed its disappointment that CPS “is closing the door on considering new charter schools in 2015,” calling it the first time in the staff’s memory that the district didn’t seek out new schools for the following fall.
“A quality school for all children is our number one priority,” Chief Operating Officer Stacy McAuliffe said in a statement. “CPS has long been recognized as a national leader in charter school authorizing. . . A robust and consistent authorizing process, including an annual RFP, is the best way to encourage effective educators to propose new schools and ensure that only the most qualified to serve our students are approved.”
Rebeca Nieves-Huffman, Illinois state director for the pro-Emanuel Democrats for Education Reform group said in a statement that Chicago students “urgently need access to more high-quality charter schools, particularly in underserved communities.”
The upcoming charter proposal process “presents an opportunity not only to create more high-quality options in the city while addressing the overwhelming parent demand for more charters, but also for CPS to hold low-performing charter schools more accountable,” she wrote.