Selected readings on US charter schools
Community groups will study proposals, make recommendations
As Chicago Public Schools solicits applications for new charter schools on the Northwest and Southwest sides, officials have launched community advisory councils to help sell the controversial initiative to neighborhoods that historically have not been interested in charters.
But the district’s new push may be “severely constrained” because charters are being asked to find their own facilities, said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
The district is seeking new charters in overcrowded neighborhoods on the far Northwest Side and in far Southwest Side communities near Midway Airport.
Typically, parents in those communities have not been interested in the privately run charter schools, vying instead for magnet schools, competitive selective-enrollment schools or strong neighborhood schools.
Broy said that under former schools chief Arne Duncan, charter schools were largely built in African-American and Latino communities with underperforming schools. “Using charters as a pressure valve in overcrowded neighborhoods is a change in approach. We’re not sure how successful it will be,” Broy said.
Broy said he knows of no other large urban district that has used the charter model to relieve overcrowding across a school system.
CPS vowed during the school closings process that it would not allow charters to use closed facilities. But now charter applicants are being encouraged to have plans to secure a facility. Charters prefer CPS buildings because they’re cheaper. Broy said there’s also a dwindling supply of suitable facilities such as Catholic schools.
“The biggest obstacle is new buildings,” he said. “That will dramatically decrease the number of applicants.”
In August, CPS put out a request for proposals for charter elementary schools in nine areas — Albany Irving, Ashburn, Belmont Cragin, Chicago Lawn, McKinley Park, Midway, Little Village, Reed-Dunning and Sauganash — and for charter high schools on the Southwest and Northwest sides.
CPS on Monday began accepting applications for parents and community members to serve on Neighborhood Advisory Councils that will be charged with recommending charter proposals to the district. The members, who must live in an area identified by CPS as a priority community area, will review the charter applications. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the new charters in January.
District officials say the advisory councils are not meant to sell charters to what might be a disinterested community.
“As we work to expand high-quality academic options with a key focus on overcrowded communities … parent and community engagement will serve as the linchpin of this process,” schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.
Source: Chicago Tribune – by Noreen S. Ahmed-Ullah