School leaders recommend closing two charters

Twelve charter operators slated to have contracts renewed

February 21, 2013

Updated 9 p.m.
 
Chicago Public Schools officials plan to shut down two charter schools over the next few years.
 
Aspira - Mirta Ramirez campus and Betty Shabazz - DuSable campus will be phased out — meaning current students will be allowed to graduate, but no new students will be added next year.
 
The move comes as the district decides which of its district-run public schools will close at the end of the year. There are 129 schools currently under consideration.
 
Both Aspira and Betty Shabazz operate other schools, which will remain open. District leaders may also grant Aspira an additional campus.
 
CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler said that’s because the charter school group has “taken steps to improve overall performance … and would like to open a campus in an area with overcrowding.”
 
The charter school closures are part of a regular process for renewing contracts with the privately-run, publicly-funded schools. The process is separate from other the school closings.
 
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is recommending that all 12 charter school operators up for renewal, including Aspira and Shabazz, be granted new contracts. In total, the 12 operators run 30 schools. If approved by the board next week, most of those contracts will run for five years. Two schools, ACE Tech and Community Services West Academy, are being recommended for three-year contracts.
 
At a hearing for these recommendations Wednesday night, members of the Chicago Teachers Union called for just a one-year renewal for the UNO charter school network, citing recent allegations of financial misconduct. They want an independent investigation of the network’s financial practices.
 
Ziegler said CPS’s review determined that UNO “overall has a substantial financial plan and met all requirements within its contract.”
 
The Betty Shabazz-DuSable closure came as a surprise to founder and Board President Carol Lee. She said the network found out Monday that CPS wanted to close their high school. Lee said rather than begin phasing out grades, the school should be given that same three-year time period to operate normally and turn themselves around.
 
“In the long run, to address the kinds of challenges our high schools face, as opposed to closing schools down, we need to talk about how we build capacity,”  Lee said.  
 
She was also disappointed that CPS did not follow its own recommendation not to close any district-run high schools for safety reasons.
 
The Chicago Board of  Education will vote on the charter renewals and closures next Wednesday.