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School Board OKs new charter schools for 6,000 kids

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday approved charter school expansion for just under 6,000 students — providing an educational experience one parent said was as different from a traditional public school as “night and day.”

“We’re very happy,” said Phyllis Lockett, president of Renaissance 2010, a nonprofit group that raises money for Chicago charter schools. “And this is not about charter versus traditional schools ... It’s about what’s best for the children.”

One of the only voices not spilling praise into the microphone during two hours of public testimony was that of Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis.

Charter schools are just a marketing scheme trying to sell a product that doesn’t work — just like a weight loss gimmick she once fell for. “Guess what?” said Lewis. “I’m still a fat girl.”

But the charter expansions were a victory for many.

Bryant Coulter is a firefighter who considers himself a pro-union guy, but prefers non-union charters schools. “I saw five fights while waiting to talk to an assistant principal at the CPS high school my son went to,” said Coulter. The difference was “night and day” after switching to charter schools, he said.

The expansion measures passed Wednesday are a scaled down version of a larger request that met heavy opposition at last month’s meeting.

During an otherwise peaceful afternoon at board headquarters, sparks briefly flew when a man allegedly grabbed a woman’s arm after disagreeing with her opinion that a prized magnet school should open in an under-served minority area — and not in University Village.

Angela Bryant says she called for security and felt threatened after being called a racist by the man and having a finger pointed in her face.

The board later approved the school at the University Village site, and the man was charged with misdemeanor simple battery.

After closed door deliberations the board unanimously approved:

■ A new charter high school for Legal Prep Academy.

■ A new campus for Chicago International Charter School’s Quest North.

■ Three new elementary school campuses for the UNO Charter School Network.

■ Enrollment increases and/or additional grades to four Nobel Network Charter schools, as well as seven Youth Connection Charter Schools, Erie Charter School, and UNO Charter School Network at 51st and St. Louis.

■ And the conversion of Kwame Nkrumah Academy from a contract school to a charter school.

■ The board also approved expansion of a school breakfast program and implementation of a new system to track student allergies.

■ A new high school in the South Shore community.

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