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Charter operators propose up to 20 more schools in CPS

Amid Chicago Public Schools’ financial woes that have the district cutting budgets in the middle of the school year, 17 charter school operators have given notice they’d like to open 20 new campuses.

Three existing operators of the publicly funded but privately managed schools are looking to expand into new campuses. Perspectives Academy wants to add elementary K-5 grades in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood to its existing portfolio, Pathways in Education Charter School wants to open a high school in Roseland on the Far South Side or in Logan Square on the Near Northwest Side, and Chicago Collegiate Charter School wants to open two more schools in the Greater Roseland area.

The rest are newcomers seeking to open mostly in the fall of 2018, including one operator that tried in vain last year to open charter campuses but withdrew at the last minute.

Letters of intent were due Friday but they’re not mandatory, so more operators still could submit applications, CPS said.

CPS still lacks $129 million for its current operating budget and is considering knocking 13 school days off the end of this school year to help fill that gap. CPS also has just sued the state for a larger share of funding and told schools they can’t spend up to half of their remaining discretionary money.

Charter schools also face $15 million in cuts to their fourth-quarter payments due in April.

“The short story is that charter school leaders are not easily dissuaded,” said Andrew Broy, head of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. “The climate is challenging, but the need is still real. We are working with a handful of these applicants, but we won’t know how serious they are or their capacity until we get further into the application process.”

CPS is mandated by state law to either accept a crop of charter applications once a year or to take them on a rolling basis.

“Chicago Public Schools is committed to a rigorous evaluation process that prioritizes quality and community support as it carries out its state-mandated obligation to review new school applications,” district spokesman Michael Passman said in an email.

“Similar to last year when CPS received letters of intent for 23 proposed campuses, the district received letters this year from 17 potential operators of 20 proposed campuses. Letters of intent mark the first step in an extensive application and review process, and we are committed to considering only proposals that demonstrate academic quality, community support, and ability to address an existing need in the city.”

It’s unlikely that 20 schools will actually open since the district agreed in its latest contract with the Chicago Teachers Union to a cap on the total number schools.

CPS says the cap goes to 132, leaving room for nine more to open provided that no charters close.

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