Delay funding vote for more charter schools, Progressive Caucus urges

Delay funding vote for more charter schools, Progressive Caucus urges

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BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter January 15, 2014 11:34AM

The City Council’s Progressive Caucus demanded Wednesday that the Chicago Board of Education put off next week’s vote to add 21 more charter schools amid claims it would speed up Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to “outsource” public education.

After closing nearly 50 elementary schools and slashing school budgets to the tune of 3,168 layoffs, Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), his colleagues and community leaders say it makes no sense for Chicago Public Schools to spend millions on a charter school expansion.

CPS established neighborhood advisory councils to review charter applicants. But a process billed as “unbiased” turned out to be a “dog-and-pony show to rubber-stamp” the charter expansion, according to Kerry Murphy, who served on the Northwest Side council.

The advisory council ignored its own guidelines, which call for new charters to relieve overcrowding, Murphy said.

None of the high schools within a five-mile radius of the proposed new Noble School location are over-crowded, but all of them have had their budgets slashed by amounts ranging from $530,000 to $2.1 million, she said. CPS strongly disagreed with the overcrowding claim, noting that a school across the street from Noble is at 126 percent capacity.

“This lack of financial resources is setting the neighborhood schools up to fail so that a case can be made that charter schools are better — and that’s a lie. They are not,” said Murphy, a local school council member at Dever Elementary.

“Remember how well privatization of the parking meters went? Same thing is happening to our schools. Shame on CPS and the mayor for outsourcing our children’s education to people who are no more qualified and, more often than not, less qualified to teach our children.”

The resolution introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting demands that school board put off a vote on charter school expansion until the City Council’s newly-created Independent Budget Office has an opportunity to conduct a cost analysis. The new office doesn’t even have an executive director.

But after being “bombarded” with community opposition, Sposato said, “We’re just asking for them not to consider any charters….Never. [Or at least] until we solidify community schools and give `em the resources they need.”

The resolution was referred to the Rules Committee, burial ground for legislation opposed by the mayor.

“I’m a firm believer in parents having choice in education,” Emanuel said Wednesday.

“The way I see it is not charters vs. neighborhood or public schools, but 56,000 people in Chicago avail themselves — or a little more, actually — of charters.”

In an emailed statement, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools accused Sposato of attempting to deny parents the school choice they crave and deserve.

“The proposal to limit charter school growth fails to acknowledge a simple reality: Chicago parents are increasingly choosing to send their children to charter public schools and thousands more potential students continue to languish on charter school waiting lists,” the statement said.

“Parents are choosing charter public schools for their children because they feel the school’s mission-focused curriculum and culture meets their individual child’s learning needs and is the best option for their family. Why do our City Council members want to shut the schoolhouse door on those families?”

CPS spokesman Joel Hood said: “Providing high quality education options is a priority for CPS, which is why there are rigorous standards when approving any application for a charter school as well as renewing their contract.”

He added, “If CPS does not complete its review process and take its recommendations to the Board within 75 days, charter applicants can appeal directly to the Illinois State Charter Commission, forfeiting CPS’ authority to manage the new schools or hold them accountable.”

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