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CPS Proposes 12 New Charter Schools Amid Community Concern, Lower-Than-Touted Performance

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Chicago Public Schools proposed to open 12 new charter schools throughout the city within the next two years on Monday. The plan will be voted on by the Board of Education Wednesday.
Chicago Public Schools proposed to open 12 new charter schools throughout the city within the next two years on Monday. The plan will be voted on by the Board of Education Wednesday.

Chicago Public Schools announced Monday their plan to open 12 new charter schools throughout the city over the course of the next two years while, at the same time, the system is aiming to close, phaseout or "turnaround" several neighborhood schools.

CPS announced that the schools will provide "a higher quality school option" for some 9,200 in "high-need" South and West Side Chicago communities. Ten of the 12 newly proposed schools will replicate existing charters overseen by UNO Charter School Network, Noble Charter School Network and LEARN Charter School Network. Two other new charter schools operated by Catalyst Schools and Christopher House, are also included in the plan.

The networks are said to have "proven track records of boosting student achievement and creating strong learning environments that promote student academic growth."

Jean Claude-Brizard, CPS CEO said in a statement announcing the plan that the charters are a tool to expand educational opportunities for children across the city.

"With more than 120,000 CPS students currently in underperforming schools, we are working to expand access to higher quality school options in every community to help serve the needs of students that the system has failed -- and do so quickly with the options available to us," Brizard said.

But not everyone is enthused by the plan to expand charter schools' presence in the city. Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) on Monday effectively blocked the UNO's proposal to build a new school at 2102 N. Natchez Ave., in Sposato's district, when he delayed a City Council vote on a requested zoning change, the Chicago News Cooperative reports.

Sposato explained in a statement that his support of the proposal is contingent on whether he is confident the UNO-overseen charter school "will serve the children in the neighborhood where it is located."

"I am a strong supporter of our community schools and I believe that the kids in the neighborhood should have the opportunity to attend their neighborhood schools," Sposato continued.

Chicago charter schools recently came under fire after a first-ever analysis of how they stack up against other public schools when it comes to ISAT/PSAE scores returned erratic results. The analysis found that only one of the city's nine charter franchises reported a higher percentage of students who passed the state exams at a rate high than the districtwide public school average. Though some charter schools were included among those slated to be consolidated with other schools, no charter schools were included among the CPS's latest group of those targeted for closure.

But CPS leadership has defended charter schools' performance. CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told the Chicago Tribune that the specific networks are being allowed to open new schools in the plan because "on the whole, their schools outperform the district."

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union has spoken out against the proposed school closures and turnarounds and is "fighting to keep public schools open, and to stop efforts by the Mayor’s Office to dramatically increase the number of non-union charter schools in the city." The planned closings have also been met with community protest, as ABC Chicago reported earlier this month.

The CTU will be joined by Occupy Chicago protesters in an overnight vigil scheduled for outside the CPS administration building at 125 S. Clark St. on Tuesday evening. They also plan to have a pronounced presence at the Wednesday meeting where the board is expected to vote on the newly proposed charter schools.

Photo by supafly via Flickr.

WATCH community members protest, earlier this month, the planned closure of several CPS schools deemed "low-performing":

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