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CPS makes deal with Gates Foundation

Updated: January 8, 2012 10:33AM

Chicago Public Schools Tuesday jumped into the race for a chunk of $40 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation by agreeing to share what works among its charter and traditional schools and to break down barriers between the two often-competing factions.

CPS and Spring Branch, Texas joined a dozen other districts — including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Minneapolis — that have already signed Gates-backed “Charter-District Collaboration Compacts.”

Chicago schools are expected to get $100,000 in startup funds out of the deal, as well as the chance to win a slice of at least $40 million to be split among vying districts.

“This compact reflects our mission to learn from high-performing schools, whether charter or traditional, so we can replicate the elements that contribute to strong academic performance,’’ Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said.

The system hopes to use Gates money to not only spread what works, but to create common accountability standards across all schools; to streamline the enrollment process so parents do not have to use different applications for different schools; to create a “fair funding system’’ for charters and traditional schools, and to include charters in its facilities plans.

A news release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office hailed Chicago’s jump into the Gates effort, saying “more than 100 [Chicago] charter schools already provide quality education in Chicago’s underserved communities that otherwise have limited options.’’

“The mayor’s press release continues the lie that all charters are great,’’ countered Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education. “I believe that ‘sharing’ best practices is just a cover for getting more money for charters.’’

Gates Foundation spokeswoman Debbie Robinson said the compact is about spreading excellence, not supporting failure.

“Let me be very clear. The foundation supports high performing charters. Charters that perform poorly should not be serving students,’’ Robinson said.

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