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Board of Ed. approves 7 new Chicago charter schools

The Chicago Public Schools Board Meeting Wednesday January 22 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

The Chicago Public Schools Board Meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2014. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2014 12:32PM

The Chicago Board of Education Wednesday approved proposals for seven new charter schools to open over the next two years, sparking some outcry from those wondering how the district could close dozens of neighborhood schools then open new charters.

“This is a complex situation,” Board of Education President David Vitale said. “When we are making these decisions, it does affect neighborhoods. It does affect schools — we understand that.

“Our goal is for quality schools. There’s been an agnosticism towards the form of the schools, but there is a strong belief that charters do provide quality just like contract schools and just as importantly ... as our regular schools.”

But Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the board’s approval of new charters “hypocritical.”

“Freedom to choose is at the bedrock of our society,” she said, “but choice should be based on fact and data. What is being presented is a false choice. Knowledge is the basis for real choice. What parents and the public are being presented with is a pre-determined path that leads to the undermining of our neighborhood schools and the privatization of public education.”

The proposals approved outright are:

◆ Great Lakes Academy, which wants to open one elementary school in the South Shore area.

◆ Noble’s ITW David Speer Academy high school in Belmont Cragin.

The proposals approved with conditions are:

◆Noble’s yet-to-be-named high school, which needs to provide more details about its plan. The school would be temporarily located at 17 N. State while it identifies a permanent neighborhood and location.

◆ Two Concept Schools campuses. One in Chicago Lawn and one in Chatham. Among the information CPS wants is details regarding the facilities and principals of the new schools. A politically connected pastor could end up as the landlord for the Chatham school, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

◆ Intrinsic Schools, which wants to open one new campus on the Northwest Side. CPS wants more information from the group, including academic performance information of the group’s first school.

◆ Chicago Education Partnership, which wants to open one campus in the Austin community. CPS wants more information regarding academic capacity from the group.

The groups need to submit their responses to CPS in the coming months.

CPS officials denied the proposals for three groups:

◆ Curtis-Sharif STEM Academy, which wanted to open four campuses.

◆ Be the Change, which wanted to open one campus.

◆ Connected Futures Academy, which wanted to open five campuses.

Altogether Wednesday, the board considered proposals from eight charter groups seeking to open 17 campuses over the next two years. The board had previously approved nine charter schools to open next year, though they don’t all appear to be on schedule to open that soon, officials said.

The board Wednesday didn’t vote unanimously, though.

Member Carlos Azcoitia voted no for several proposals that passed.

He said after the meeting that he wants charters to target the areas that CPS has prioritized due to overcrowding.

Those areas include Ashburn, Belmont Cragin, Chicago Lawn, McKinley Park, Midway and Reed Dunning.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy said the board “overall, got it right” and he praised CPS for “trying to grow in a responsible way.”

But those opposed to CPS opening more charters didn’t see it that way and they rallied before the meeting.

CPS mom Manolita Huber said “The board will follow the mayor’s orders and approve these charter schools, ignoring parents and taxpayers.”

Contributing: Hannah Lutz


Twitter: @schlikerman

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