Aldermen's resolution seeks no new charters this school year

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Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) talks with reporters after Mayor Rahm Emanuel delivered his 2016 budget address to the City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015. | Ashlee Rezin/For the Sun-Times

Nearly all Chicago aldermen are hoping that no new charter schools open this school year, according to a resolution introduced Thursday.

The measure, introduced in the Committee on Education and Child Development, is sponsored by 42 of 50 alderman.

Among them is Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), who said this is a budgetary issue.

“We’re facing a very serious budgetary crisis, and I think now is not the time to open a dozen or so new charter schools,” he said.

In April, Chicago Public Schools announced that private school operators are seeking to open or expand 20 public charter schools and 12 public alternative schools.

And earlier this week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel pitched a $588 million property tax increase as part of a plan to eliminate the city’s deficit.

Sawyer said the resolution is not anti-charter.

“I’m not so anti-charter that I would say we should never open” another one, he said. “The neighborhood schools are there. We have seats available throughout the city.”

CPS is required by state law to review new charter applications. Rejected charters can appeal to a state board, and Sawyer hopes state education officials also see the proposed measure.

In a statement, district spokesman Bill McCaffrey said, “While CPS faces serious financial challenges, we must continue to invest in high-quality schools and programs to protect our academic gains and ensure our students graduate ready for college, career and life.”

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools called the aldermen’s proposal “misguided” and said Chicago families need choices when it comes to schools.

“Every student deserves access to a high-quality school option, regardless of school type. Why do some City Council members want to shut the schoolhouse door on those families?” Andrew Broy, president of the group, said in a statement.

He added: “The simple reality is that educational opportunity is still rationed inequitably in our city. No moratorium will change that. But the expansion of high-quality charter schools will.”

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