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Renaissance fund seeks to raise $40 million for new schools

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

With 2011 right around the corner, Mayor Daley’s signature — and controversial ­— Renaissance 2010 school initiative is officially dead, although the system will continue to open new public schools, interim Chicago schools chief Terry Mazany said.

The goal Daley announced in unveiling Renaissance 2010 in June of 2004 — to create 100 new public schools, many of them out of failing ones — has been achieved, Mazany told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“The mayor’s vision [was] to inject a lot of choice options for neighborhoods,” said Mazany, who took over the CEO post Nov. 30. “That mission has been accomplished.”

Now it will be up to the Renaissance Schools Fund, a not-for-profit created by the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club, to continue to find new donors for the next batch of new schools, Mazany said.

The Renaissance Schools Fund hopes to raise at least $40 million for the next crop of new schools over the next five years, fund President Phyllis Lockett said. It will focus on “expanding high quality charter school models” as well as finding “great emerging models,” Lockett said. The fund helped bankroll 68 of Renaissance 2010’s 103 schools.

However, the first group of proposed non-Renaissance 2010 schools brought before board members under Mazany hit a brick wall Wednesday.

Following a raft of complaints, school board members tabled proposals to open three new charter schools and add six campuses to two existing charter schools during Wednesday’s board meeting.

Critic Rosita Chatona, a Chicago Teachers Union organizer, charged that charter schools — which are funded with public money but can kick or force out kids that traditional public schools have to keep — are draining kids with concerned, active parents away from neighborhood schools. She told board members that a proposed Englewood Montessori charter school “will pull students from five surrounding public schools. .  .  . This creates a climate of haves and have-nots.”

Afterward, Mazany said, board members asked him to do a “thorough review” of new school proposals and to analyze the “broader implications” of school openings.

“In some places they make sense because they do provide a high quality option that doesn’t exist,” Mazany said.

But “we don’t want to create a new school where it drains kids away from a good school and diminishes the quality of that school.”

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