CHICAGO (CBS) — Members of the Chicago Board of Education have gone along with staff recommendations and voted to approve seven new charter schools for the city.
The vote happened over the objections of union leaders and some parents who accused Chicago Public School leadership of taking resources from neighborhood schools and giving them to privately-run charters.
The seven approved schools were among a total of 22 proposals, with a majority of the proposals being rejected. Five of the approved schools are slated to open in the 2014-2015 school year, with the other two to open for the 2015-2016 school year.
The board approved proposals for Great Lakes Academy, Noble Street and ITW. Noble Exeter, Chicago Lawn, Chatham and two campuses of Concepts Schools, Chicago Education Partnership and Instrinsic were approved with contingencies.
More than two dozen protesters camped out in front of Chicago Public Schools headquarters overnight, ahead of the school board meeting to weigh plans for new charter schools.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports CPS parents and teachers were among those who spent the night outside to protest the expansion of charter schools in Chicago, less than a year after dozens of traditional public schools were closed over budget concerns.
The two sides of the debate were both aggressive in voicing their opinions about charter schools ahead of the meeting.
Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said “The reason to expand schools in Chicago is because we need more high-quality schools in the city, not fewer. The school closing decision by CPS had nothing to do with charter growth. It had all to do with enrollment declines over the previous two years.”
CPS parent Jorge Rivera said he’s open to any school that helps kids get away from guns, drugs, and gangs.
“If we could change the old ways to get our kids a better education, to keep them in school, to get them to college, and to succeed, and get them of the streets, away from guns and gangs and drug dealing, then fine. If that works, let’s do it,” he said.
The district already has 130 charter schools out of 658 overall.
However, opponents said, despite the increasing reliance on such programs, charter schools have not helped CPS close the achievement gap between its highest-performing and lowest-performing students. They also said it makes no sense to open new charter schools just months after closing nearly 50 neighborhood schools due to under-enrollment.
A group of 25 protesters spent the night in sub-freezing cold to make a bold statement that charter schools are not the solution to CPS’s problems.
Parents and teachers already upset at last year’s decision to close nearly 50 elementary schools said it makes no sense to open new charter schools now.
“This myth that CPS must open more charters to meet parent demand is insulting as a taxpayer, and a resident of a community that had schools on the closing lists last year, and now has a charter proposal,” said Jennie Biggs, with the parent group Raise Your Hand.
“They just closed down 50 schools. If you just closed down 50 schools because there apparently aren’t enough students to fill the seats, how are there enough students to fill 20 new schools’ worth of seats now?” Chicago Teachers Union financial secretary Kristine Mayle said.
In a written statement, CPS spokesman Joel Hood said, “”CPS is committed to providing and expanding high-quality school options across the city … to ensure that 100 percent of our students are college-ready and 100 percent college-bound. CPS’ final recommendations on this year’s charter applications will reflect this commitment to our students and the families that we serve.”