More than 30 charter and options schools with expiring contracts will stay open past this year after Chicago’s school board voted to renew its relationships with the schools’ 13 operators.
The board unanimously approved new contracts ranging from three to six years with the privately run but publicly funded schools, all of which are in good academic standing by the district’s measures. The 32 schools serve more than 8,000 of Chicago Public Schools’ 50,000-plus charter students. Their contracts were set to expire in June.
Ahead of the vote at the board’s monthly meeting Wednesday, nearly the entire 60-speaker public participation portion of the meeting was filled with parents, students and teachers from the various schools urging the board to renew the contracts.
Some students explained how their schools have positively developed them into young men and women, and parents shared their thoughts on their schools’ benefits, such as a dual-language program at one school.
But later in the meeting, several skeptical board members questioned district officials about the renewal process, specifically asking about charter accountability and transparency in a substantive, hour-long discussion.
“I don’t want CPS to be a punitive institution, but on the other hand, as you know, there has to be accountability on how to address the issues,” board member Luisiana Melendez said.
“I was moved by many of the statements that were made here today, and that emotion that families and students and educators have around these schools,” board member Elizabeth Todd-Breland said. “But I think if we get back to the premise of charter schools as being there because they ostensibly provide a better education,” then there needs to be significant accountability and transparency.
Hal Woods, the interim executive director of the district’s Innovation and Incubation Department, said CPS “vigorously” reviews charter operators on an annual basis and looks at their academic and financial performance and stability throughout the term of their contract. The district is also considering creating a charter transparency website where operational documents and contracts would be available, Woods said.
He assured board members that an operator could still be held accountable during a contract if they’re not meeting district standards but said CPS would work with an operator on a rolling basis to address any concerns identified.
While the standard renewal is for five years, Woods said some schools this time were given three- or four-year contracts depending on their financial and academic health. If they didn’t fully meet the requirements, they received a shorter deal.
Another issue raised was severe punishments at some charter schools. Woods said four schools were found to be handing out a high number of out-of-school suspensions to kids in kindergarten through second grade. As a condition of renewal, those schools had to adopt CPS’ student code of conduct and disciplinary guidelines.
The renewals were approved for nine traditional charter operators with 10 campuses, two options charter operators with 21 campuses and two contract schools:
- North Lawndale College Prep — Collins and Christiana campuses — for three years
- Academy for Gobal Citizenship for six years
- Catalyst-Circle Rock for five years
- Erie Elementary for five years
- Legacy Charter School for four years
- Moving Everest Charter School for five years
- Rowe Elementary Charter School for five years
- Providence Englewood Charter School for five years
- Urban Prep-Bronzeville for three years
- Plato Learning Center for three years
- Academy of Scholastic Achievement for five years
- ASPIRA, Antonia Pantoja Alternative
- Association House for five years
- Austin Career Education Center for five years
- CCA Academy for five years
- Chatham Academy for five years
- Community Youth Development Institute for five years
- Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos Puerto Rican High School for five years
- Innovations High School of Arts Integration for five years
- Jane Addams Alternative for five years
- Latino Youth Alternative for five years
- McKinley Lakeside Leadership for five years
- Olive Harvey Middle College for five years
- Progressive Leadership Academy for five years
- Sullivan House Alternative for five years
- Truman Middle College for five years
- Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy for three years
- Chicago Excel Academy for three years