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Report: community questions CPS’ charter school plans

Updated: November 24, 2013 6:29AM



A group of parents and students are questioning Chicago Public Schools’ motive to expand charter schools in parts of the city, according to a report released Tuesday

“CPS’ budget crisis is actually selective,” community organizer Demian Kogan said. “When they talk about neighborhood schools, every year they have to cut more and more and more, but there’s a different story when it comes to charter schools because every year they’re adding more and more and more.”

But a CPS spokeswoman disagrees and said additional charter schools are just one option for parents sending their kids to Chicago schools.

“While we faced underutilization in some parts of our city, other parts of the city are facing an overutilization crisis,” CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said.

According to the request for proposal quietly released in August, CPS is asking for new charter operators and campuses for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years mainly — but not only — in 11 so-called “priority communities” on the Northwest and Southwest sides where district-run schools have been complaining of overcrowding.

But the report authored by Communities United for Quality Education and Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools alleges CPS used preliminary data for the RPF and didn’t update when hard numbers that weren’t as favorable to justifying charters became available in September.

Carroll said CPS needed to issue the RFP in a timely manner and said the final numbers still showed those communities need overcrowding relief because they’re already overcrowded or “on the brink of becoming overcrowded.”

Among the findings from the report’s authors are that charter schools “do not produce better outcomes than traditional CPS schools.” But CPS disagrees and provided data that said most charter schools outperformed the neighborhood schools the students would have otherwise attended, according to a composite analysis by CPS.

The community groups want more focus on neighborhood schools and suggested “more targeted, cost effective” alternatives to relieve overcrowding. One option would be to redraw attendance boundaries. But CPS’ Carroll said that wouldn’t solve the problem in many communities that have seen and will continue to see a growing population.

Another suggestion, according to the report, would be to use “mobile classrooms” for neighborhood schools to increase classroom space. That, Carroll said, isn’t a permanent solution.

“Realistically we have to be prepared to address the ongoing population increases in those areas over the long term,” she said.

But Kogan said those are just suggestions.

“In order to earnestly invest in solutions for neighborhood schools, they need to look at each school and assess the real needs,” Kogan said.

Email: bschlikerman@suntimes.com

Twitter: @schlikerman



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