Chicago Public Schools left out of Gates grant awards – for now

December 5, 2012

Chicago is not going to get extra money to help fund some of the new commitments it made to charter schools earlier this year.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced seven school districts around the country would be getting multi-million dollar grants to implement their district-charter collaboration compacts. Sixteen districts, including Chicago, signed such compacts and applied for the money.

The compacts are part of a larger initiative to get charter school operators and district leaders to work together more. Charter schools, which are privately run but get public taxpayer money, have been controversial for several years. The Chicago Teachers Union recently released a lengthy document accusing charters of cherry-picking students, paying administrators too much, and not hiring enough minority candidates. A number of Chicago charter leaders dispute those claims.

In Chicago, charter operators have long complained that they receive less funding than traditional schools. Under the compact and in the most recent budget, CPS officials increased that amount, and increased how much charters receive to rent or fix up school buildings.

Without the Gates money, those commitments will continue to come from the district’s annual pot of money and cut into other areas of spending.

But officials with the Gates Foundation say Chicago could still get some money. They plan to award another round of grants sometime before May 2013.

Gates spokeswoman Debbie Robinson said the Gates Foundation wanted to give Barbara Byrd-Bennett, CPS’s new CEO, a chance to look over the compact signed by her predecessor Jean-Claude Brizard, make any changes and sign it herself.