Friday, September 25, 2015

Chicago aldermen finally say 'no' to charter expansion

"The vast majority of aldermen oppose the opening of new charters this year, while we face a massive budget crisis and no path to adequately funding our neighborhood schools... The current system pits charters against neighborhood schools in a "zero-sum game." --Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th)

In a strong rebuke of current Rahm/Claypool school closing/charter opening policies, 42 Chicago aldermen have signed on to a resolution seeking a moratorium on new charter schools this year. 

Ted Cox at DNAInfo writes:
State law allows charters to open even if the local district doesn't want them. CPS has denied some charter applications, only to have them approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. At that point, CPS has to fund the schools, without having any say over their operation.
The resolution, submitted by Progressive Caucus member Roderick Sawyer, asks for a freeze on new charters both in the city and across the state through the Illinois State Board of Education. 

MORE SAWYER..."With so many neighborhood schools taking severe budget cuts, it is common sense that we should attempt to steady the ship before pushing forward with new schools," he added. "We need to slow this process down. Charter schools are also having problems filling seats, so the mission of these schools is becoming more about marketing than education. Let's deal with our current financial difficulties, see what is working and what is not working. and then do what is best for all our children."

Claudinae Hurt, Gage Park High School student, passes out information pamphlets after a rally against charter school expansion in Gage Park Tuesday. -- DNAinfo/Joe Ward
A previous attempt to pass a similar resolution back in 2013 was blocked in the Rules Committee ("Where good legislation goes to die") by Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) who asked for "more time and patience" and claimed the alders didn't have enough time to read it. I guess two years was long enough, even for this usually compliant crew.

Of course, the still simmering anger over mass school closings and anti-charter revolt in the neighborhoods on the north and increasingly on the south sides of the city, have plenty to do with speeding up the process. Not to mention, the recently-ended 34-day hunger strike by Bronzeville parents and activists, which forced Rahm/Claypool to reopen Dyett as a neighborhood public school, rather than a charter. 

The topper came this week during Rahm's budget speech when the mayor who had closed 49 schools for being "underutilized" complained about overcrowding. 
"Today, some of our schools are so overcrowded that children have classes in stairwells, in hallways – and sometimes even in converted closets."

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