North Side politicians, principals and parents delivered letters to Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday in a last-ditch effort to stave off the move of a charter school into the Uptown neighborhood, saying CPS can’t afford a school it doesn’t need and reminding him that he supported neighborhood high schools on election night.
Letters from 13 politicians and 13 Local School Councils of surrounding elementary and high schools reject the proposed move of The Noble Academy from its temporary downtown location to an empty private school building at 640 W. Irving Park.
The coalition calls the move “fiscally irresponsible” of CPS, saying Amundsen, Lake View, Sullivan, Uplift and Senn high schools have plenty of room for more students, and locating the charter nearby will siphon away dollars CPS can’t afford.
Jeff Jenkins, a Coonley Elementary School parent, called the addition of 900 seats to Uptown “fiscally unsound and a major breach of fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers” as the district faces a $1.1 billion deficit.
“Given the data and the clear community support, saying ‘no’ to Noble in this instance is clearly the best choice and supports the neighborhood high schools. We hope that the mayor and the CPS Board hear and support the efforts of his constituents and this coalition, which is made up of those with the most at stake,” Jenkins said.
The Noble Academy argued at a public hearing last week that it’s out of space at 17 N. State Street and needs a permanent home.
Principal Pablo Sierra said the school — 5 miles from the nearest Noble branch — is “about a quality open enrollment choice for all families of Chicago. Certainly Noble Academy students here today . . . are no less deserving of a permanent home than those at Lake View, Amundsen or Senn.”
The Board of Education is slated to vote on the relocation amid other charter school proposals at its Wednesday meeting. CPS interim CEO Jesse Ruiz has recommended the Noble move despite outrage at the hearing and a planned Chicago Teacher’s Union protest before the vote.
The mayor’s office did not return messages seeking comment on Tuesday. In an emailed statement, CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said: “CPS officials consider [community] perspectives when making recommendations to the Board of Education.”
Ruiz has warned schools could face classroom cuts if Springfield doesn’t fix the district’s pension crisis. More than ever schools are competing for money, including the fixed amount allotted for each enrolled student.
Supporters of the neighborhood schools say the proposed relocation contradicts Emanuel’s promise on election night, “I hear you, Chicago. . . . I hear you on the importance of neighborhood high schools.”
They also fear Noble’s move could undermine the GrowCommunity effort, a partnership of Aldermen Pat O’Connor (40th), Tom Tunney (44th) and Ameya Pawar (47th) with help from the mayor.
O’Connor said he’s not “knee-jerk opposed to charters” but supports his neighborhood high schools.
“If you’re trying to be a better school and you’re scrambling for good students and you want access to them,” the last thing you want is more charters, he said.
“However, if people in my community say they’d like another option,” O’Connor continued, “you have to listen to the residents.”