Private school operators are seeking to open or expand 20 public charter schools and 12 public alternative schools, Chicago Public Schools announced Friday.
The large number of proposed new privately operated but publicly funded schools has drawn criticism of the district, which closed a record 48 neighborhood schools in 2013.
“Over 30 new charter school proposals!” Jesse Sharkey, the vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said in an email.
“This epitomizes the kind of unplanned growth of politically connected charters which comes at the expense of traditional public schools. Even as the district closes traditional schools, cries poverty, and loses top leadership to no-bid contract scandals, we continue to see the growth of politically connected, unproven charters.”
Some of the communities that may see these schools include Hyde Park, Back of the Yards, Roseland, Portage Park, Rogers Park, East Garfield Park and Lawndale.
And despite the CTU criticism, those communities need charter schools, Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
“Charter public schools exist because tens of thousands of Chicago parents demand a choice in the public education system and send their children to charter schools,” Broy said in a statement. “We do not support charter school growth for the sake of more schools, but to address the quality issue facing the district. Several of the proposals – and they are just that, proposals – are from charter schools with proven results of improving academic achievement and outcomes for students in some of our city’s most underserved neighborhoods. This annual review of charter school proposals is necessary to improve access to quality schools for all families.”
CPS is encouraging its critics — along with parents and community members — in those neighborhoods to get involved in what it calls Neighborhood Advisory Councils to advise CPS on the proposals.
Unlike previous charter proposal requests, CPS isn’t targeting specific communities from operators seeking to open charters.
Jack Elsey, CPS’ chief officer of innovation and incubation, said the district can’t base its charter school decisions on need and location because of the Illinois Charter School Commission, which can override CPS if it denies a charter and then fund the school with money that the district would have otherwise controlled. CPS would have no oversight of the school in that case.
“We have to review applications based on quality, not on location,” he said.
Earlier this week at a Chicago Board of Education meeting, board member Andrea Zopp said, “I do want to remind those of you who are concerned about charters . . . that if we say ‘no’ to all those proposals, every one of those advocates can go to the state commission and that commission can approve that proposal and put a charter school in the district under current state law. So I encourage you to be as active in your advocacy as you are here with your legislators about changing that law that allows that commission to overrule that board and open charters in that district.
“That’s very important because we could deny all the charters and they could all be approved.”
Interim CPS CEO Jesse Ruiz added, “and we would have no control whatsoever over those schools.”
The providers that submitted proposals, many for multiple campuses, are:
♦ International School of Languages Charter School
♦ Intrinsic Schools
♦ Key Charter School
♦ KIPP Chicago
♦ New Life Academy
♦ Noble Network of Charter Schools
♦ Perseid Charter School
♦ Stars Project Engineering Academy
♦Connected Futures Academies
The new proposals include high school and grade schools and many alternative schools, also called option schools, for kids who have dropped out.
Lawndale community activist Valerie Leonard, said in an email, “It’s interesting that CPS seems to have identified alternative schools as a growth area for North Lawndale. CPS knows the factors that cause school dropout, and how to retain students. I don’t understand why they don’t use that knowledge and channel resources to traditional schools to ensure that children have the necessary supports to keep from dropping out in the first place.”
CPS officials will review the proposals and make recommendations to the Board of Education. The board will vote on the proposals in October. Many of the proposals seek to open in the fall of 2016.
Two charter campuses are already approved and expected to open in September, according to a CPS spokesman. Four other campuses are already approved and expected to open after next year’s school year.
CPS currently has 131 charter schools run by 49 operators.
Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick