WBEZ | Chicago Board of Education http://www.wbez.org/tags/chicago-board-education Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Protests planned as Chicago's school board considers adding more charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/protests-planned-chicagos-school-board-considers-adding-more-charter-schools-109552 <p><p>Charter school opponents are gearing up for multiple protests&mdash;including an overnight vigil Tuesday sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union&mdash;as Chicago&rsquo;s school board considers adding more charter schools to its portfolio.</p><p>The board&rsquo;s scheduled vote Wednesday on whether to add up to 17 more schools to the system comes just eight months after Chicago closed a historic 50 schools. Another 10 charter campuses already have permission to open in fall of 2014.</p><p>Charter protesters cite varying reasons for their opposition: some are union supporters, and most charters aren&rsquo;t union.</p><p>Others, like Prosser Career Academy ninth-grader Lizette Lopez, think money and improvement efforts should be put into existing schools. &nbsp;She spoke Monday from the site of one of the proposed charters, which is directly across the street from her high school.</p><p>&ldquo;My school is a great school, and it would be even better if they actually started investing in it, instead of spending &hellip;on unnecessary schools in my community. &nbsp;How does even making a new school even make sense?&rdquo; she asked Monday afternoon at a protest organized by students and community groups, among them Citizens United for Quality Education.</p><p>Zerlina Smith is mad her tax dollars could go to politically connected landlords, who plan to rent space to charters.</p><p>&ldquo;You raised my tax dollars&mdash;that&rsquo;s what my property taxes are for, my neighborhood schools. Evidently they&rsquo;re not going to OUR children&rsquo;s neighborhood schools. They are going to Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s friends,&rdquo; Smith said at the protest, which featured a few dozen youth, parents and members of Action Now.</p><p>And Darryl Truss of the group Raise Your Hand questioned why a church group with no experience running a school would be tapped to open a charter in Austin, where four schools were closed in Chicago&rsquo;s massive school closure.</p><p>Behind the protesters, bulldozers rumbled through the Rubenstein Lumber site where Noble Street Charter Network is proposing to locate its 15th campus. (The board will consider a 16th Noble Street campus to be located temporarily in the Loop.) Protesters blasted the charter school network and CPS for moving ahead with demolition at the site even before the school board votes.</p><p><strong>Dispute over &ldquo;priority areas&rdquo;</strong></p><p>In May, CPS closed 50 schools on grounds of declining enrollment. But in a Request for Proposals issued in August, officials invited charter schools to submit proposals for new schools to help relieve longtime school overcrowding on the Northwest and Southwest sides. In the past, the district had prioritized charter schools locating in areas that lacked &ldquo;quality&rdquo; school options. Those were often areas where enrollment was declining as well.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/charter%20schools%20lutton%20photo%202.jpg" style="width: 620px;" title="A bulldozer works to demolish the Rubenstein Lumber Yard at 5321 W. Grand, where Noble Street Charter Network is proposing to build a school. Protesters complained Monday that the demolition was taking place even before the school board vote. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></p><p>The activists protesting Monday said based on the school board agenda and the charter schools&rsquo; proposals, they could find only two schools that fell within the wide swaths the district identified as priority areas.</p><p>The Noble Street campus to be located at 5321 W. Grand Ave., for instance, is technically about a half mile outside the priority-area boundaries identified on a map in the RFP.</p><p>But Noble Street spokeswoman Angela Montagna says her organization has always considered that site part of the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, identified as overcrowded. Montagna said about 400 students from the neighborhood are enrolled at other Noble Street schools, showing &ldquo;there&rsquo;s demand there for a Noble education,&rdquo; she said. Montagna also said construction on the site would stop if the board votes down the Noble campus, but she said in order to get a school up and running by the fall, demolition needed to begin. The school&rsquo;s construction will be privately funded.</p><p>Noble Street high schools&mdash;where students apply and are selected by lottery&mdash;post strong ACT scores in the city, though officials admit about 35 percent of Noble students don&rsquo;t make it to senior year. They transfer to other high schools or drop out before then.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools has been unclear about the actual number of charter schools the school board will consider Monday&mdash;saying as recently as last week the board would vote on 21 proposed schools. CPS spokesman Joel Hood now says the district received proposals from nine organizations hoping to open 22 campuses. He says four of the proposals were withdrawn by the operators. The district now counts 17 schools up for Wednesday&rsquo;s vote, but five of them would service dropouts, a separate type of charter school.</p><p>Hood says by CPS&rsquo;s count, five proposed campuses serve the prioritized Northwest and Southwest sides, including the Noble campus. He says ultimately it comes down to this: Who would argue with having another really high performing school in the neighborhood?</p><p>&ldquo;This was never intended to solely be about priority areas,&rdquo; says Hood. &ldquo;If a really great school comes in and wants to locate in an area we don&rsquo;t necessarily consider a priority, if it&rsquo;s a really great school, we&rsquo;re going to consider it.&rdquo;</p><p>Normally by this time, district administrators would have made public which charter schools they think should be approved by the school board. But this year, for reasons it has not explained, the district is not making public its recommendations until the morning of the vote.</p><p>School districts in Illinois are required to consider charter proposals annually. Any denied charter can appeal to a state charter commission, which can overrule the district and order the school be opened.</p><p><strong>Charter campuses to be considered by the school board Wednesday:</strong></p><ul><li><p><strong>Be the Change Charter School </strong>(Location TBD in McKinley Park, serving grades K-2 in 2014, eventually serving 475 students grades K-8)</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Chicago Education Partnership</strong> (&ldquo;By the Hand&rdquo;) (K-6 campus to be located at 400 N. Leamington in Austin, grades 7-8 to be located at 415 N. Laramie in Austin. Opening in 2015, serving grades K-1. Eventually serving 810 students in grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chatham Charter School</strong> (8522 S. Lafayette in Chatham, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This would be Concept Schools&rsquo; third campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Concept Schools--Horizon Science Academy- Chicago Lawn Charter School</strong> (5401 S. Western in Gage Park, serving grades K-8 in 2014, eventually serving 725 students K-12. This would be Concept Schools&rsquo; fourth campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Connected Futures Academies Options Charter Schools </strong>(five campuses, all TBD, each serving 165 re-enrolled drop-outs ages 15-21 in 2014).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 1</strong> (location TBD but according to founder tentatively at 7939 S. Western in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 2</strong> (location TBD but according to founder, tentatively at 87th and Kedzie in the Ashburn neighborhood), serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 3</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 4</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Great Lakes Academy Charter School</strong> (location TBD in South Shore (per hearings and proposal), serving grades 1-2 in 2014, eventually serving 576 students grades K-8).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Intrinsic Charter School 2</strong> (temporarily located at 4540 W. Belmont in the Kilbourn Park neighborhood), eventually moving to a location TBD on the Northwest Side, opening fall 2015 with grade 9, eventually serving 959 students grades 7-12. This would be Intrinsic&rsquo;s second charter school in Chicago).(Intrinsic initially proposed opening four campuses under this RFP; a spokesman for CPS says the group withdrew three of those applications).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Noble Street Charter School- ITW David Speer Campus</strong> (To be permanently located at 5321 W. Grand Ave. in Belmont-Cragin, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This would be the 15th Noble Street campus in Chicago).</p></li></ul><ul><li><p><strong>Noble Street Charter School- Noble Harkness Academy Campus</strong> (To be temporarily located at 17 N. State St. in the Loop, serving grade 9 in 2014 and eventually serving 900 students in grades 9-12. This would be the 16th Noble Street campus in Chicago. The network would be authorized to educate 13,875 students).</p></li></ul><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 21 Jan 2014 12:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/protests-planned-chicagos-school-board-considers-adding-more-charter-schools-109552 Chicago Board of Ed: Downsized headquarters, supersized contract, and military school http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-ed-downsized-headquarters-supersized-contract-and-military-school-109410 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed (2).jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><strong><em>Chicago&rsquo;s school board approved a number of measures at the monthly board meeting Wednesday:</em></strong></p><p dir="ltr"><strong>New district headquarters</strong></p><p dir="ltr">District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told board members that five years of cutbacks have shrunk the district&rsquo;s central office staff by 34 percent, and CPS is operating in more space than it needs.</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd-Bennett compared the need to downsize to the closing of 50 schools. &ldquo;Both the underutilization of schools and the underutilization of central office have stretched our limited resources. We could not continue to throw money after half-empty schools,&rdquo; she told board members. &ldquo;And likewise, we can no longer afford to support a half empty building here at 125 S. Clark.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd Bennett said the district looked at 86 options and determined that moving around the corner to three floors on 1 N. Dearborn was the best one. A district press release says CPS will save $60 million over 15 years by moving.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Logistics contract triples</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The board also approved a significant increase in the amount it is paying to empty out Chicago&rsquo;s closed schools.</p><p dir="ltr">The original moving &nbsp;and logistics contract with Global Workplace Solutions, inked in April, was for $8.9 million. But <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cost-empty-out-closed-schools-doubles-109364">as WBEZ first reported</a>, the contract was quietly amended in September and increased to $18.9 million. The new contract could be for up to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/more-overruns-cost-empty-out-closed-chicago-schools-now-set-triple-109387">three times the original amount</a>&mdash;$30.9 million.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials say that despite the overruns on the logistics contract, the overall cost of closing a historic number of schools will remain within budget&mdash;$78 million this year, not including capital costs. (In addition to the logistics contract, the $78 million includes things like &ldquo;principal transition coordinators&rdquo; who were assigned to help ease the transition between closing and receiving schools and &ldquo;integration&rdquo; events for the consolidating schools.)</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been able to move things around&mdash;as we discovered&mdash;a little bit more here, &nbsp;a little bit less there, so it&rsquo;s gonna end up in balance,&rdquo; CPS school closings czar Tom Tyrrell explained to board members.</p><p dir="ltr">Tyrrell said there&rsquo;s an &ldquo;emerging requirement that is time sensitive&rdquo; to board up and secure more schools than the district initially thought would be necessary. He says the district is avoiding costs for new books and furniture by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/what-happened-all-stuff-chicagos-closed-schools-109360">repurposing items from closed schools</a>, but that takes investment to inventory and sort items on the front end.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Ames Middle School&rsquo;s conversion to a military academy high school is approved</strong></p><p dir="ltr">In an unusual divided vote, the school board voted 5-2 to approve a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-lose-fight-keep-military-school-out-109044">controversial plan to change Ames middle school to a military academy</a> affiliated with the U.S. Marine Corps.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman Roberto Maldonado was the plan&rsquo;s key backer, and he made his final case before board members at the meeting, saying he had worked to &ldquo;scientifically verify&rdquo;&mdash;with a telephone poll of 300 residents&mdash;that there was overwhelming support for his plan.</p><p dir="ltr">Ames Middle School is currently unpopular, he said, with just half of nearby kids electing to go there.</p><p dir="ltr">Maldonado presented himself as both a peace activist and a supporter of the military and military schools. He said he had protested the Viequez military base in Puerto Rico, and he promised that the new school would &ldquo;not be a training ground for sending our children to enlist in the military when they graduate.&rdquo; But he also brought fellow Alderman James Balcer&mdash;a Marine Corps vet&mdash;to speak in favor of the school. &ldquo;Sempre fidelis,&rdquo; Balcer said at the end of his statement.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ames is a beautiful campus and it&rsquo;s perfect expanded into a high school for the kids of that community so that they will have an opportunity to go to college,&rdquo; said Maldonado. &ldquo;I want my kids&mdash;the children from my community that look like me, brown faces that look like me&mdash;to have an opportunity to go to college.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Ames parents begged the school board to listen to parents, not politicians. They said the alderman has disparaged Ames. One mother, Emma Segura, held a tape recorder up to the microphone and played a voicemail message:</p><div class="mediaelement-audio"><audio class="mediaelement-formatter-identified-1387483231-0" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Click to listen to the voicemail.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></div><blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>&quot;Hello, the Chicago Public Schools recently sent a letter about moving your child to Ames Middle School, a gang infested school at Armitage and Hamlin, up to two miles away.</em></p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>They say your school is too crowded, so the only choice is to move your child to Ames, a gang-infested school where all students must go through a metal detector every morning. There&rsquo;s a public hearing Monday, April 15, at Schurz High School, at 5pm.</em></p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><em>This is the only chance to voice opposition to moving your child to gang-infested Ames Middle School, at Armitage and Hamlin, where all students must go through a metal detector every single morning. If you can attend this hearing, please press 7.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>If you&rsquo;d like someone to follow up with a phone call to give you more information, please press 8. Thank you.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Maldonado&rsquo;s office denies any connection to that call.</p><p dir="ltr">The conversion of Ames will push some middle school kids to Kelvyn Park High School. Ames parents said that&rsquo;s no place for younger kids.</p><p dir="ltr">Board members Carlos Azcoitia and Mahalia Hines opposed Ames&rsquo; conversion to a military school.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Lincoln Elementary annex moves forward</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The board also approved an $18 million annex to Lincoln Elementary in Lincoln Park. The annex is controversial because it puts Lincoln, with well-heeled and politically connected parents, ahead of dozens of other schools that <a href="http://www.cps.edu/qualityschools/pages/data.aspx">by CPS&rsquo; own standards</a> are more overcrowded. Parents and community members who oppose the annex&mdash;because it snatches up part of the playground and calls for a much larger school, or because they believe other schools are needier &mdash;have argued the district could solve the overcrowding problem at Lincoln by adjusting the attendance boundaries of nearby schools.</p><p dir="ltr">Alderman Michele Smith told board members the need for the annex was &ldquo;indisputable,&rdquo; and that she was &ldquo;embarrassed and astounded&rdquo; by those who opposed it. &nbsp;Smith said redrawing boundaries would &ldquo;force students out of this outstanding school.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Board members regularly hear <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-11-21/news/ct-school-board-meets-met-1121-20131121_1_edwards-elementary-schools-ceo-barbara-byrd-bennett-lincoln-elementary">testimony from overcrowded schools</a> on the northwest and southwest sides, many surrounded by other schools in the same situation. Parents from those schools have argued that their children deserve an addition as much as kids from Lincoln Park.</p><p dir="ltr">Board president David Vitale said overcrowding was &ldquo;an issue that will continue to plague us.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The resources are in fact limited; the complexity of prioritizing is difficult,&rdquo; Vitale said in closing the meeting. &ldquo;But I have visited these schools, I visited Canty, I sat in that auditorium while kids ate their lunch. And there&rsquo;s nobody more than me that would like to solve their problem. But we need to go through a proper prioritization process and spend the resources we have in the best way possible.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The district&rsquo;s 10-year Master Facilities Plan, passed in September, was supposed to do that.</p><p dir="ltr">Vitale says he hopes for a clearer prioritization process by the time the district draws up its next capital budget, which will be within the next six months.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation.</em></p></p> Thu, 19 Dec 2013 12:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-board-ed-downsized-headquarters-supersized-contract-and-military-school-109410 CPS board votes to close 50 schools http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93490666&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93434415&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 public schools Wednesday, &nbsp;the largest round of school closings in recent American history. &nbsp;</p><p>Before the vote, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told board members, &ldquo;I personally feel you&rsquo;re on the wrong side of history, and history will judge you.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But after two hours of final <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/closing-50-schools-both-sides-claim-moral-high-ground-chicago-school-closings-debate">pleas </a>by parents, teachers, aldermen and activists to save the schools, and after several raucous disruptions to the proceedings, board members voted unanimously to close 49 of the schools. &nbsp;One school, Von Humboldt, was closed on divided vote.</p><p>In addition to closing 50 schools, the board &nbsp;voted to replace the entire staff at five grammar schools &nbsp;and have 23 schools share 11 buildings.</p><div><em><strong>Listen: WBEZ visits two of the spared schools</strong></em></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93432008" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools officials have said the closures are necessary to operate the district more efficiently. They unveiled <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-proposes-closing-53-elementary-schools-firing-staff-another-6-106202">a list of 54 schools they wanted to close</a> in March, after months of public hearings the district says attracted 20,000 people. School officials originally identified more than 300 schools as &ldquo;underutilized.&rdquo; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Despite opposition in the streets and at public hearings &nbsp;&nbsp;and some critical reports by hearing officers, that list of 54 closings held--until the eleventh hour. &nbsp;On Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett withdrew her recommendation to close four schools: Garvey, Ericson, Mahalia Jackson and Manierre. &nbsp;Byrd-Bennett also recommended delaying the closure of Canter Middle School for one year and sparing Barton Elementary from having &nbsp;its staff fired.</p><p dir="ltr">Ultimately, board members voted on more than 100 different proposals to massively restructure the school system next year and add to the programming in schools slated to take in students from closing schools. &nbsp;&nbsp;The one school with a divided vote, Von Humboldt Elementary, &nbsp;was closed on a 4-2 vote. Dissenting votes came from Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz and Carlos Azcoitia.</p><p>In testimony before the vote, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) pressed board members to preserve Von Humboldt &nbsp;as the surviving CPS school in the East Humboldt Park community.</p><p>&ldquo;I know you don&rsquo;t want your legacy to be that you closed public schools in a neighborhood and have left zero schools remaining. &nbsp;I know you don&rsquo;t want that, board members,&rdquo; Moreno said.</p><p><strong>Listen: Aldermen speak against school closings in their wards</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93434750" width="100%"></iframe></p><p dir="ltr">The closings, turnarounds and co-locations will affect roughly 40,000 students and 120 schools, mostly on the South and West sides of the city. Eighty percent of the affected students are African American.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials made several last minute tweaks to the overall plan. More closing schools will get busing to their new school, bringing the total number of schools being provided transportation to 15. The additional schools are: Dodge (to Morton), Melody (to Delano), Parkman (to Sherwood), Wentworth (to Altgeld) and West Pullman (to Haley). &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">After the vote, board member Henry Bienen said many of the changes were made in response to the concerns of board members. Jesse Ruiz, who sat on the Illinois State Board of Education for several years before being appointed to the Chicago Board of Education, described it as the most difficult vote of his life. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Politics and education</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Aldermen have no official say in what goes on at CPS, but many have been lobbying for months to keep &nbsp;schools in their wards open. &nbsp;In addition to Moreno, eight others &nbsp;showed up Wednesday to fight for schools in their communities.</p><p dir="ltr">Ald. &nbsp;Bob Fioretti (2nd), who has been at many of the public hearings over the past five months, said he almost didn&rsquo;t show up to testify. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m worried that all those hearings were a charade. The decisions were already made,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after the meeting, the Chicago Teachers Union lambasted &nbsp;mayoral &nbsp;control of the public schools, and announced a new effort to unseat Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other elected officials because of the school closings vote.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We will start registering people to become deputy registrars. We&rsquo;re doing training&hellip; because clearly we have to change the political landscape in this city,&rdquo; CTU president Karen Lewis said after the vote.</p><p dir="ltr">Lewis said allowing the mayor to control the public schools is an &ldquo;absolute failed experiment and nightmare.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS officials, for their part, &nbsp;have repeatedly said an elected Board of Education would only inject more politics into public education.</p><p><strong>Making schools better</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Chicago has been closing schools and opening new ones for more than a decade. But, overall, academic performance has not dramatically improved.</p><p>Still, board members, CPS officials and Mayor Emanuel maintain that closing schools will get students out of under-resourced, failing schools.</p><p>&ldquo;I know this is incredibly difficult, but I firmly believe the most important thing we can do as a city is provide the next generation with a brighter future,&rdquo; &nbsp;Emanuel said in a statement Wednesday evening.</p><p>A <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/few-chicago-school-closings-will-move-kids-top-performing-schools-107261">WBEZ analysis</a> of school performance &nbsp;shows only three closings sending kids to a top-performing school. About one-third will send kids to equally low-performing schools. This was the case for three of the schools removed from the closings list at the last minute&mdash;Manierre, Mahalia Jackson and Garvey.</p><p>To help keep the promise that children would be going to better schools, the Board &nbsp;of Education approved significant investments for schools that will receive children from closing schools. &nbsp;Many of the receiving schools will get extra money and positions next year to implement new programs. Schools getting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs will receive $376,000 in startup funds and two extra positions, &nbsp;and schools implementing International Baccalaureate (IB) programs will get $255,000 and two positions. One receiving school, Haley Elementary, will get $237,000 to start a fine and performing arts program.</p><p dir="ltr">The Board last month approved spending $329 million to fix up the remaining school buildings; &nbsp;$217 million of that will go directly to schools impacted by closings, turnarounds and co-locations. The total cost will be financed <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-will-go-further-debt-pay-upgrades-receiving-schools-106627" target="_blank">by selling bonds</a>.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Closing schools, opening schools</strong></p><p dir="ltr"><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F93490666&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="719px"></iframe>Buried in the school shake-ups voted on today were plans to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/proportion-privately-run-chicago-public-schools-increase-104303">open 13 new schools</a>&nbsp;and a handful of alternative programs. Many of those have already been approved by the board.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The questions that I keep hearing over and over again from my constituents, is, &lsquo;How do we close schools, while simultaneously opening charter schools?&rsquo; and &lsquo;Why are we closing schools to crowd schools to then eventually open charter schools?&rsquo;&rdquo; said Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), who only has one charter school in his ward. Two of his ward&rsquo;s schools, Courtenay and McPherson, are affected by the closings.</p><p dir="ltr">But a number of charter school parents, with a newly formed group that calls itself the Charter Parents United (CPU), spoke on Wednesday to ask for more funding. They claim charters are not funded equally with other public schools. &nbsp;CPS increased funding to charters this past year and officials have said the schools are funded fairly. &nbsp;</p><p>While they spoke mainly about funding, some of the charter school parents in attendance &nbsp;said they felt attacks on their children&rsquo;s schools are unfair.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re tired of being blamed for the choice that we made,&rdquo; said Antoinette Sea-Gerald, a parent from Noble Street Charter School &ndash; Gary Comer College Prep. &ldquo;Please, please, please continue to let us have our choice.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>&quot;The school&rsquo;s staying open?&quot;</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Before school started Wednesday, parents outside of Manierre Elementary were all smiles, after hearing the news that their school would remain open. &nbsp;Parent Charae Williams was walking her daughter to preschool when she heard the news from a WBEZ reporter.</p><p>&quot;It&rsquo;s going to stay open?&quot; Williams asked. &ldquo;Ooh, that is good! That&rsquo;s amazing. I&rsquo;m just so happy now.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I got a text from another parent&hellip;and I just immediately started crying,&rdquo; said parent Shereena Allison. &ldquo;It was a happy experience, but I hate the fact that all of the schools (were) not included in it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1.5;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><em>Follow <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a> on Twitter for live updates.</em></p><p><strong>Affected schools: Closures, turnarounds and receiving schools</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="1" style="width: 620px;"><tbody><tr><td><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/closurekey2.jpg" title="" /></div></div></td></tr><tr><td><div id="map-canvas"><a name="map"></a></div></td></tr><tr><td><form action=""><a name="list"></a>Number of rows to show: <select onchange="setOption('pageSize', parseInt(this.value, 10))"><option value="5">5</option><option value="10">10</option><option value="15">15</option><option value="20">20</option><option value="30">30</option><option value="40">40</option><option selected="selected" value="0">50</option><option value="80">80</option><option value="127">ALL</option></select></form><br /><div id="table">&nbsp;</div></td></tr></tbody></table><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 22 May 2013 05:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-board-votes-close-50-schools-107294 Chicago school officials approve new schools, but no neighborhood options http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-officials-approve-new-schools-no-neighborhood-options-105107 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/P1050158 - azcoitia.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Parents who live near downtown Chicago are not happy with Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week.</p><p>Emanuel announced a plan Tuesday to add 200 more spots a year to Jones College Prep -- one of Chicago Public Schools&rsquo; coveted selective enrollment schools.</p><p>The expansion will be accomplished by keeping the old Jones College Prep building open. Parents like John Jacoby, who lives near the school, have fought to have Jones as a neighborhood option.</p><p>&ldquo;Unfortunately, his plan to add selective seats does nothing to help the families in the community that paid the tax dollars that built Jones and have paid the tax dollars that will now repair Jones,&rdquo; Jacoby said.</p><p>Alderman Bob Fioretti (2nd) is also upset with the plan. Parents throughout Fioretti&rsquo;s ward, which includes the South Loop, West Loop, Chinatown and University Village, are pushing for a neighborhood high school, where children are guaranteed a seat and don&rsquo;t have to test in.</p><p>&ldquo;Help keep thousands of middle class families here in this city,&rdquo; Fioretti said. &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t push them out to the suburbs or elsewhere.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Last year, CPS officials announced a plan to serve the community by reserving 75 spots in each grade for neighborhood students. But CPS Officer of Access and Enrollment Kathryn Ellis said Tuesday that neighborhood students still must qualify with grades and test scores.</p><p>CPS Board President David Vitale said the district met countless times with alderman and the community to come up with solutions. He also noted the overwhelming demand for selective enrollment schools&mdash;last year CPS received 18,000 applications for 3,000 spots citywide.</p><p>The Board of Education also approved two new charter schools&mdash;an arts-based elementary called The Orange School and a 6th through 12th grade high school called Foundations College Prep. Both have conditional approval and will need to have a location approved. Board member Andrea Zopp said she felt strongly that new schools locate in neighborhoods where there is a need.</p><p>In addition to the two charters, the Board approved four new alternative schools, mostly to serve high school dropouts. Those schools are: Banner School, Pathways in Education, Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy and Edison Learning&rsquo;s Magic Johnson Academy.</p><p>At Wednesday&rsquo;s meeting, CPS officials again reiterated that they plan to close schools and need to do so to spend money more efficiently, but did not provide a detailed description of the long term cost savings. A <a href="http://cps.edu/News/Press_releases/Pages/1_18_2013_PR1.aspx" target="_blank">second round of community meetings</a> regarding school closings start Monday.&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 23 Jan 2013 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-school-officials-approve-new-schools-no-neighborhood-options-105107 Did CPS let building go to pot before ‘turnaround’? http://www.wbez.org/story/did-cps-let-building-go-pot-%E2%80%98turnaround%E2%80%99-96618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-February/2012-02-22/Herzl.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-22/Herzl.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 354px; height: 234px;" title="Theodore Herzl Elementary School opened 97 years ago in North Lawndale. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></p><p>The Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday is scheduled to vote on proposals to close or completely restaff 17 schools. That would make more than 100 the district has shut down or restaffed in the last decade. School officials say their approach gives students in poorly performing schools more options. But there&rsquo;s an old accusation that the district lets some school buildings go to pot until just before turning them over to private management groups. From our West Side bureau, we look at a school where parents and teachers are making that accusation.</p><p>MITCHELL: Lajuan Criswell&rsquo;s daughter is a first-grader at Herzl Elementary, a school in Chicago&rsquo;s North Lawndale neighborhood. Criswell&rsquo;s mom teaches there. And Criswell herself serves on the Local School Council and volunteers after school twice a week. She says the building gets too hot in the winter &mdash; some days as high as 80 or 90 degrees. And Criswell says there are other problems.</p><p>CRISWELL: We don&rsquo;t have air conditioning. The water fountains on some of the floors don&rsquo;t function either. Some outlets &mdash; that look like they have perhaps had electrical fires at one point &mdash; they have the scorch marks. Paint and plaster that was peeling off for the last few years. And something with the plumbing so that the first floor has paint peeling off some of the ceilings.</p><p>MITCHELL: And don&rsquo;t even get Criswell started on the building&rsquo;s asbestos and lead. She says the problems have gone on awhile. The district <em>is</em> starting to send in more repair crews.</p><p>CRISWELL: But only because a new company is coming in, not because they really care about the safety or health of my child or anybody else&rsquo;s child in that building.</p><p>MITCHELL: Because they&rsquo;re going to have a private company come in and run the school.</p><p>CRISWELL: Exactly. That&rsquo;s the driving force trying to fix it up.</p><p>MITCHELL: The private group will replace the entire staff. Chicago Public Schools calls that process a &ldquo;turnaround.&rdquo; Now, something Criswell doesn&rsquo;t mention is that the Local School Council she serves on will have no control at Herzl if this turnaround proceeds. So you could say she&rsquo;d have a motive to exaggerate about the building&rsquo;s conditions. But there are lots of critics of the turnaround model. And many say district management has unspoken motives, too. Some of Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s top CPS appointees came from AUSL, short for the Academy for Urban School Leadership. That&rsquo;s the private group that would run the Herzl turnaround. Those officials include Tim Cawley, the district&rsquo;s administrative chief. During a December call with reporters, Cawley acknowledged CPS avoids sinking money into buildings it might close within the next 10 years.</p><p>CAWLEY: We really believe the investment in the facility makes sense when it&rsquo;s partnered with a program change. So, in going into those schools without a doing a more comprehensive change &mdash; just painting the walls and putting new lighting in and creating a more positive interior when nothing else has changed at the school &mdash; doesn&rsquo;t get you the same return on the investment as it does when there&rsquo;s a fresh start.</p><p>MITCHELL: By fresh start, he means the turnaround. And, again, in that phone call Cawley said CPS considers closing schools as long as 10 years ahead of time. If that&rsquo;s the case, kindergarteners at some poor-performing schools might never see major building improvements before leaving for high school. So where has this approach left Herzl Elementary, a school on academic probation for years? I decided to check out the building myself. Last week I asked for a quick tour in a message to the school&rsquo;s principal. Her name&rsquo;s Teresa Anderson. I didn&rsquo;t hear back, so I called again. And again. Tuesday, I went over to Herzl without an appointment.</p><p>MITCHELL: I&rsquo;ve been calling since Thursday. She hasn&rsquo;t been returning my calls. Taxpayers pay for this building. We&rsquo;ve been hearing a lot about the conditions here and we want to see them.</p><p>STAFFER: She&rsquo;s not available to speak right now.</p><p>MITCHELL: Is that her right there?</p><p>STAFFER: (Indecipherable).</p><p>MITCHELL: She was off the phone looking right at me just a minute ago. She can&rsquo;t step out here to speak with me for five minutes?</p><p>STAFFER: No, she&rsquo;s on a conference call right now.</p><p>MITCHELL: OK, I&rsquo;ll wait until the end of her call.</p><p>STAFFER: OK.</p><p>MITCHELL: Principal Anderson eventually came out but said I could not look around the building and asked me to leave. The CPS central office backed her up. The district says Herzl building upgrades this summer will total about $9 million. If the school board approves the turnaround Wednesday, those improvements will be just in time for the arrival of private management.</p><p><em>WBEZ&rsquo;s Linda Lutton contributed audio to this story.</em></p></p> Wed, 22 Feb 2012 11:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/did-cps-let-building-go-pot-%E2%80%98turnaround%E2%80%99-96618 Lunch staffers to CPS: We want to cook http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-24/cityroom_20100407_llutton_1648854_Chic_large.png.crop_display.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago schools are serving more healthy food than they were a couple years ago, but many kitchen workers seem to think the district still has a long way to go.</p><p>For the 2010-11 school year, Chicago Public Schools switched to menus with more whole grains, a wider array of vegetables, and less sodium, starch, sugar and fat. For the current school year, the district made its breakfast offerings more nutritious. The district says it’s also adding more salad bars.</p><p>A union that represents about 3,200 CPS food workers on Tuesday released survey findings suggesting that many students and even school principals are not eating the chow. UNITE HERE Local 1 criticized the district’s use of frozen food prepared off site, and called on the Board of Education to “ensure that all new school construction proj­ects are planned with full-size kitchen facilities capable of real cooking.”</p><p>Linda Green, a 22-year CPS employee who works in the Southwest Side’s Grimes Elementary kitchen, said students are eating less of what she serves than they once did. “There is a lot of waste because it’s just unappetizing,” said Green, who helped conduct the survey. “If it’s cooked on site you can use more seasoning and make it more flavorful.”</p><p>Local 1 said 436 CPS food employees completed the survey in December. According to the union, 42 percent felt that students were eating the new food, 50 percent reported they rarely or never had observed their principals eating their cafeteria’s lunch offerings, 75 percent indicated they had not had a chance to provide input about the new menu and recipes, 62 percent wanted more training on healthy food and 39 percent felt they could report food quality or safety concerns to parents or students without facing discipline.</p><p>A CPS statement says about a quarter of the district’s schools now serve food prepared mostly off site. The statement says that “all new elementary schools are being built with a warming kitchen” and that “all new middle and high schools are being built with cooking kitchens.”</p><p>“The food that is brought into the warming kitchen meets the same nutritional guidelines as the food in the cooking school model,” the statement adds. “We are committed to providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students at all schools. Delivery of this meal may depend on a variety of factors including kitchen capacity, facility size and condition as well as cost. However, nutritional standards are consistent across all schools. Vendors, regardless of delivery system, are expected to meet the same nutritional standards.”</p><p>The survey findings came as the U.S. Department of Agriculture planned a Wednesday unveiling of the first major changes in school meal standards in more than 15 years. The department says the new rules aim to reduce childhood obesity by “ensuring kids are offered fruits and vegetables every day of the week, substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods, offering only fat-free or low-fat milk varieties and making sure kids are getting proper portion sizes.”</p><p>A version of the guidelines the department proposed more than a year ago would also have cut down on potatoes, made it harder for schools to report pizza tomato paste as a vegetable, and halved the amount of sodium in school meals. In November, lawmakers blocked the department from carrying out those rules.</p></p> Wed, 25 Jan 2012 00:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/lunch-ladies-school-officials-dump-frozen-food-95793 CPS to stock EpiPens, propose new health policies http://www.wbez.org/story/cps-stock-epipens-propose-new-health-policies-95768 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-25/epipens_flickr_kiwinky.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools announced it will begin to stock EpiPens, which are used to inject medication into a person experiencing anaphylaxis shock. The medication and delivery tool of the EpiPen can be life-saving for those with severe allergies to food or other substances.&nbsp;</p><p>EpiPens will begin being stocked at all Chicago Public Schools pending approval by the Board of Education at a meeting Wednesday.</p><p>According to a CPS press release, if approved, CPS will have authorization to purchase "a quantity sufficient to provide between four and six devices per school."</p><p>Stocking schools with EpiPens will bring the District into compliance with a state law passed this year, and is expected to cost around $195,000. The District's Office of Special Education and Supports is charged with the purchase and distribution of the devices.</p><p>EpiPens are expected to be in schools before the 2012-13 school year. CPS estimates 4,000 of its students have diagnosed allergies. The press release did not state whether EpiPens would be rstocked after use, and who would pay for restocking. The new policy also allows students to carry and self-administer EpiPens, as well as their own asthma inhalers when authorized by a parent or guardian.</p><p>All CPS staff would also be required to undergo training for: management and prevention of allergic reactions; identifying and treating Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); and on diabetes management and asthma.</p><p>Regarding diabetes management, the district is also proposing policy that complies with state guidelines. Under state policy, if a school nurse can not assist a student with diabetes, the school must have a "Delegated Care Aide" for every student with diabetes at a school. CPS cited 659 documented cases of students with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.</p><p>A CPS press release also said it will propose its first-ever asthma management policy to the Board of Education this week. CPS said it has more than 19,000 students with documented cases of asthma, or roughly five percent of its student population.</p><p>Proposed policy also addresses requirements for student access to over-the-counter medication. Students would no longer require a medical provider to authorize OTC use, but would require a parent or guardian to do so. Students would not be allowed to carry OTC medication during school hours.</p></p> Tue, 24 Jan 2012 13:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cps-stock-epipens-propose-new-health-policies-95768 Chicago School closings, Board of Ed meeting gets shut down, and North Side students react to losing 'magnet' status http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-12-16/chicago-school-closings-board-ed-meeting-gets-occupied-and-lincoln-pa <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-16/education.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>From a contentious Board of Education meeting to the phasing out of a coveted magnet school in Lincoln Park/Old Town, this week and last has been a big moment for Chicago's schools system.</p><p><strong>Board of Education Meeting gets 'Occupied'</strong></p><div style="margin-top: 0px; margin-right: 0px; margin-bottom: 0px; margin-left: 0px; padding-top: 0px; padding-right: 0px; padding-bottom: 0px; padding-left: 0px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; font: normal normal normal 12px/170% Verdana, sans-serif; "><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/protesters-disrupt-chicago-board-education-meeting-94896"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/story_image_medium/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-14/IMG_1749.JPG" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: right; width: 280px; height: 195px; ">WBEZ's education reporter Linda Lutton reported from the Chicago Board of Education meeting</a> on Wednesday, where protesters took over, and shouted down school CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. <em>(Click article for audio)</em></p><p>Security guards escorted protesters out of the board chambers. but as quickly the leader could be removed, someone else took up the chanting.</p><p>Protesters frequently<a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/Chicago-school-closings"> cited school closing data </a>that was first reported by WBEZ.&nbsp;</p><p>City proposals would have Chicago shutter its 100th school since Williams, Terrell and Dodge, the first of many schools closed over 10 years ago. WBEZ and Catalyst <a href="http://www.wbez.org/no-sidebar/Chicago-school-closings">plotted out annual school closings and turnarounds over the last decade in Chicago.</a></p><p><strong>Commission that can authorize charter schools, &nbsp;raise its own private funds</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/charter-school-agency%E2%80%99s-funding-raises-questions-94919">WBEZ West Side reporter Chip Mitchell examined the agency responsible for overseeing charter schools </a>and the source of their funding. &nbsp;</p><p>The Illinois State Charter School Commission, created by a law enacted this summer, can authorize charter schools that fail to win approval of local school districts. &nbsp;The commission is allowed to raise private money to fund itself. The commission’s sole funding so far is a $50,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which supports several Illinois charter school operators and their state trade group.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/cta-story-94885/"><strong>In Chicago, some find public transit fares linked to school attendance</strong></a></p><p>What would happen if every student in Chicago got a free ride to school and back? Some parents, students and educators think that could help get more kids to school. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/cta-story-94885/">Kate Dries reports.</a></p><p><strong>Popular magnet school targeted for 'Phase Out' in Lincoln Park: Students respond, diversity questioned</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-wants-phase-out-coveted-magnet-school-94873"><img alt="" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/imagecache/story_image_medium/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/lasalle.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 280px; height: 195px; ">Chicago Public Schools is floating a plan to phase out one of its most popular magnet schools. Linda Lutton reports.</a></p><p>LaSalle Language Academy magnet school in Old Town gets 1,500 applications a year for around 70 openings.</p>Now, CPS wants to slowly convert the magnet to a neighborhood school that draws from the immediate area, one of the ritziest in the city. The school would take no new magnet school kindergartners in the fall, unless they already had a sibling enrolled in the school. Instead, the kindergarten would be filled with neighborhood children.<p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Students respond in the comments of our report:&nbsp;</strong></p><blockquote><p><em>"I think that it would be really bad if we lose our magnet status. By losing our magnet status, we lose what we stand for, which is our diversity, ability to learn a new language, and the experience to travel overseas. LaSalle has given us the opportunity to learn multiple languages and celebrate/learn multiple cultures...."</em><br> --Daisy</p><p><em>"I am currently an 8th grader at LaSalle. I have cherished the experience that I have had at this school. I will soon be going to France and Washington D.C. With my class, and that is something that many other schools don't have. If the city changes the school from magnet to neighborrhood, no one will have that experience."<br> --Bryce Montgomery&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>"If LaSalle became a neighborhood school, it would lose many qualities that it is known for, today. Its diversity would vanish, and so would the language programs. These could possibly affect kids later in life."<br> --Andie</em></p></blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-wants-phase-out-coveted-magnet-school-94873#comment-38329"><span style="color:#ff0000;">Read more from the comment thread</span></a></strong></p></div></p> Fri, 16 Dec 2011 18:37:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2011-12-16/chicago-school-closings-board-ed-meeting-gets-occupied-and-lincoln-pa Charter-school agency’s funding raises questions http://www.wbez.org/content/charter-school-agency%E2%80%99s-funding-raises-questions <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-14/Namaste_charter_SCALED.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-14/Namaste_charter_SCALED.jpg" style="margin: 8px 18px 5px 1px; float: left; width: 302px; height: 238px;" title="Namaste is among 109 charter schools in Chicago. Suburban and downstate districts are less eager for such schools. (AP/File)">A new government agency could boost the number of charter schools in Illinois. But the way the agency is financing itself raises questions.</p><p>The Illinois State Charter School Commission, created by a law enacted this summer, can authorize charter schools that fail to win approval of local school districts. The per-pupil state funding for the charter schools comes at the expense of the districts. The commission will also monitor the performance of schools it authorizes.</p><p>Despite the commission’s responsibilities, the state has not provided it any startup money. The only public-funding mechanism won’t be in place until next July, when the commission can begin collecting a fee from schools it authorizes.</p><p>Greg Richmond, the commission chairman, said his agency will need between $100,000 and $200,000 to operate until then.</p><p>The law that set up the commission allows it to raise private money. The commission’s sole funding so far is a $50,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation, which supports several Illinois charter school operators and their state trade group.</p><p>Told by WBEZ about this financing, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery said it created a conflict of interest.</p><p>“This is really the rubber hitting the road — why we thought this was a bad law,” said Montgomery, whose union includes most K-12 teachers in Chicago. “The state should reconsider this. I don’t think the people of Illinois would stand for the gaming industry, say, to have the right to reverse a community’s decision not to allow a race track in its town. I don’t know why we wouldn’t give at least the same protections to the children of Illinois.”</p><p>A spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, echoed Montgomery.</p><p>But the law’s chief sponsor, state Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, said providing taxpayer funds for the commission’s launch would have been unpopular. “It was not going to make folks happy [to take] dollars away that could be going to the traditional public schools,” she said.</p><p>Other states have allowed charter school commissions to launch with private funding, Steans said.</p><p>The Illinois State Board of Education doesn’t see a conflict with the commission accepting foundation money, according to board spokeswoman Mary Fergus. “If we had any information that specific strings were attached to the donation/funding, that would be a problem,” Fergus said in a statement.</p><p>Before the commission’s creation, charter school operators that failed to win authorization from local school districts could appeal to ISBE. That state board received dozens of appeals but, according to Fergus, it reversed a district and authorized a charter school just three times.</p><p>Charter schools are independently run but depend on public funds. Most of their taxpayer support would otherwise go to local school districts.</p><p>Chicago officials have encouraged charter schools. On Wednesday, the city’s Board of Education approved a plan for 12 new charter school campuses. Chicago already has 109, a district spokeswoman said.</p><p>Elsewhere in Illinois, only 14 charter schools are operating. Officials in many districts say charters would weaken other schools by taking away students and resources. Those officials have been reluctant to authorize charter schools.</p><p>The nine commission members — recommended by Gov. Pat Quinn and appointed by ISBE — are already holding official meetings and overseeing a staff member, attorney Jeanne Nowaczewski.</p><p>The commission this month handled its first case, an appeal from a charter school operator spurned by school officials in west suburban Maywood. That operator withdrew the appeal last week after meeting with Nowaczewski, according to Richmond, the commission chairman.</p><p>The money for the commission’s staffing and other expenses so far comes from the Walton foundation. That family started Walmart and Sam’s Club. Other recipients of Walton grants include the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, a statewide umbrella. The foundation reports that it gave the network more than $1 million in 2010. Andrew Broy, the network’s president, said the amount for 2011 is about $950,000.</p><p>The network also serves as an intermediary — a “fiscal agent” in nonprofit parlance — for Walton’s funding of the state commission. Richmond said Nowaczewski receives her paychecks from the network, not the commission.</p><p>Richmond acknowledged that the Walton money could create the perception that the commission has a conflict of interest. But he urged the public to withhold judgment on the financing until seeing how the commission performs.</p><p>“We’re going to do everything possible to do the right thing, to act ethically, to make decisions based on the merits of what’s in the interest of kids, what’s in compliance with the law,” Richmond said.</p><p>Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office hasn’t issued an opinion about whether the commission’s funding meets legal and ethical standards, a spokeswoman said.</p><p>The Illinois Association of School Administrators, which represents most school district superintendents in the state, declined to comment about the commission’s financing.</p></p> Thu, 15 Dec 2011 11:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/charter-school-agency%E2%80%99s-funding-raises-questions Chicago Board of Education votes to limit number credit cards to 5 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-board-education-votes-limit-number-credit-cards-5-92580 <p><p>The Chicago Board of Education voted on Wednesday to change its credit card policy.</p><p>Under the new plan,&nbsp; there will now be five credit cards for the entire Chicago Public Schools system. Previously, each of Chicago's 675 public schools could have up to three.</p><p>The credit cards will be under the direction of the CPS chief administrative officer.</p><p>In mid-September, the Board deactivated nearly 500 credit cards that had been issued to principals and other school personnel as per a new city-wide policy forcing agencies to reduce the number of issued cards to save money.</p></p> Wed, 28 Sep 2011 21:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-board-education-votes-limit-number-credit-cards-5-92580