WBEZ | CPS http://www.wbez.org/tags/cps Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Morning Shift: CPS tries peer-to-peer sex ed http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-11/morning-shift-cps-tries-peer-peer-sex-ed-110012 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Condom cover Flickr United Nations Development Programme.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at efforts to get sexually active high schoolers to use condoms. We also get a preview of the annual Reptile Fest. And, the scien-tronic sounds of Chicago&#39;s Byzantine Time Machine.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-cps-tries-peer-to-peer-sex-ed/embed?header=false&border=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-cps-tries-peer-to-peer-sex-ed.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-cps-tries-peer-to-peer-sex-ed" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: CPS tries peer-to-peer sex ed" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 08:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-11/morning-shift-cps-tries-peer-peer-sex-ed-110012 CPS reveals that the only ingredients in its chicken nuggets are...chicken nuggets! http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 <p><p>April 11, 2014 UPDATE: CPS finally produces the ingredient lists for the Top 5 entrees. Each chicken product contains dozens of ingredients.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>April 10, 2014, UPDATE: Thursday WBEZ heard from Illinois&#39; Assistant Attorney General for Public Access Tim O&#39;Brien. He&#39;s been assigned to review the legality of CPS&#39;s response to WBEZ&#39;s Freedom of Information Act request for school food data. &nbsp;</p><p>Wednesday WBEZ was contacted by a company that creates online<a href="http://spps.nutrislice.com/menu/battle-creek-environmental-elementary/lunch/"> school menus for the St Paul </a>school district. In these schools, parents and reporters don&#39;t need to file FOIA&#39;s to find out what&#39;s in the food, nor do they need to enlist the help of the Attorney General&#39;s office. They simply put their cursor on the item and the ingredients and nutritional information emerge in a pop-up window.&nbsp;</p><p>April 8, 2014, UPDATE: Last week, a Chicago Public Schools spokesman told WBEZ that the district simply didn&#39;t &quot;know the ingredients&quot; of the processed chicken products that it serves Chicago children. Yesterday, that same spokesman still would not share the information, saying that the district is &quot;still in the process of completing this request.&quot; &nbsp;Today Aramark headquarters says that it gave the information to CPS &quot;last week&quot; but it could not share the ingredient information with WBEZ because &quot;the District would need to release it to the media, not us.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>---------------</p><p>Almost all the meals served in the Chicago Public Schools are paid for with your tax dollars. But if you want to know what&rsquo;s actually in those meals, good luck.</p><p>Early last month WBEZ filed a Freedom of Information Act request for data on what CPS students were eating. On Tuesday, WBEZ finally received an answer, if you can call it that.</p><p>What follows is the district&rsquo;s verbatim response to our FOIA&nbsp; request for the &ldquo;ingredient lists for the top five entrees in the CPS food service program.&quot;&nbsp;</p><table border="0" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Entrée Item</strong></p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p align="center"><strong>Ingredient List</strong></p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty Sandwich</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Patty, Bun</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken &amp; Bean Nachos</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Crumbles, Tortilla Chips, Cheese Sauce, Beans</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Chicken Nuggets</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Cheeseburger</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Bun, Beef Patty, American Cheese</p></td></tr><tr><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:207px;height:20px;"><p>Penne with Marinara Meat Sauce</p></td><td nowrap="nowrap" style="width:368px;height:20px;"><p>Penne, Marinara, Beef Crumbles</p></td></tr></tbody></table><p>Yes, you read it correctly: The complete ingredient list for CPS chicken nuggets is two words: &ldquo;chicken nuggets.&rdquo; And it took more than a month for CPS Nutrition Support Services to figure this out.</p><p>When I last did a story on popular CPS lunch items for the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Farticles.chicagotribune.com%2F2011-02-20%2Fhealth%2Fct-met-new-school-lunches-20110220_1_cps-students-chartwells-thompson-healthy-food&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNG2I3jbVb45SdZO7ve-7pVkO5ePRg">Chicago Tribune in 2011</a>, the district&rsquo;s spicy chicken patty contained dozens of ingredients, many too hard to pronounce. But, miraculously, CPS and its new caterer Aramark have pared the district&rsquo;s number one food item down to just two ingredients: a chicken patty and a bun, according to the district&rsquo;s response.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CPS%20spicy%20chicken%20patty.jpg" style="margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left;" title="A chicken patty sandwich is the most eaten entree in Chicago Public Schools. But what’s in it? After a month, CPS will only disclose that it contains a chicken patty and a bun. Thanks CPS. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />A few years ago, the advocacy group Real Food For Kids criticized the <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.npr.org%2Fblogs%2Fthesalt%2F2012%2F04%2F02%2F149717358%2Fwhats-inside-the-26-ingredient-school-lunch-burger&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGprtGWU49odQw1FT4Nn-B2pMTMsw">26-ingredient burger</a> served in American schools and called on districts to phase out such heavily processed foods in lunch programs. According to the ingredient lists WBEZ received from the district, CPS has bested the 26-ingredient burger by 23 ingredients, by listing only three in its burger: a bun, a patty and (if it&rsquo;s a cheeseburger) American cheese.</p><p>Is this an accurate picture of CPS entree ingredients? We can&rsquo;t tell. Because, although WBEZ responded almost immediately with emails and phone calls seeking an explanation for these limited ingredient lists, the district has, as of yet, offered none. Yesterday, one district representative said he would try to contact the head of school food, Leslie Fowler, to determine what happened. But we&rsquo;ve heard nothing back since then.</p><p>I have covered CPS food for at least five years now, and have met with my share of district resistance to sharing information. But this latest development shocked even me.</p><p>At least previous administrations were willing to share details on what our tax dollars were buying for school lunch. This one, however, seems bent on keeping the public in the dark. But why?</p><p>It should be noted that CPS&rsquo;s response arrived on April 1st. One can only hope this mockery of the Freedom of Information Act was all just some kind of joke.</p><p>We will keep you updated on CPS&rsquo;s response here.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>UPDATE: A CPS representative said Friday he would try to obtain the missing information, but would not say when. On Monday the district had still not produced the missing data, and WBEZ filed a request with the Illinois Attorney General&#39;s office to review the situation and assist in releasing the ingredient information.&nbsp;</p><p><em>(Full disclosure: One of Monica Eng&rsquo;s eight siblings works for a food company subcontracted by CPS to cater pre-prepared meals to many CPS schools without full kitchens.)</em></p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Fmonicaeng&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGoYzy7NkmnMSoIdG75anzNVCJ90A">@monicaeng or</a> write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:59:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/cps-reveals-only-ingredients-its-chicken-nuggets-arechicken-nuggets-109963 All staff to be dismissed at three low-performing CPS schools http://www.wbez.org/news/education/all-staff-be-dismissed-three-low-performing-cps-schools-109906 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_4.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Public Schools announced Friday it will &ldquo;turn around&rdquo; three low-performing schools at the end of this school year&mdash;firing all staff there, from the janitors to the principal. Students will continue at the schools.</p><p>McNair Elementary and Dvorak Technology Academy on the West Side and&nbsp; Gresham Elementary on the South Side will be turned over to the private nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership to manage.</p><p>That group already runs 29 Chicago Public Schools, with 17,000 students.&nbsp; CPS says AUSL schools have had a &ldquo;profound impact&rdquo; on school culture, and are improving faster than those managed by the school district.</p><p>&ldquo;The data&mdash;it&rsquo;s compelling,&rdquo; said schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett. &ldquo;When I put on my parent and educator hat, I just believe we have to make the tough decision on behalf of students, and give them the opportunity and the equitable platform that they deserve.&rdquo;</p><p>Short of closing a school, the turnaround strategy is the most radical school reform the district applies to schools. It was begun in Chicago under former schools CEO Arne Duncan and became a recommended federal strategy for improving schools under President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration.</p><p>The Chicago Teachers Union immediately called the move &ldquo;school closings by another name.&quot; It comes 10 months after Chicago voted to close 49 grammar schools, the largest single round of school closings in the U.S.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re picking up where Rahm Emanuel left off last year, by destabilizing schools on the South and West Sides,&rdquo; said vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union Jesse Sharkey. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t think that the schools that are in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the city with incredibly dedicated faculty should be punished by having all those staffs fired. &ldquo;</p><p>Sharkey said improvements in turnarounds are due to additional millions of dollars the schools get over their first five years, not the new staff.&nbsp;</p><p>Under the turnaround model, new staff are also CTU teachers. But the union blasted turnarounds as a strategy to get rid of veteran African American teachers, whom Sharkey says kids need as role models. Nearly all students in the three schools targeted for turnaround are poor and black.</p><p>A <a href="http://ccsr.uchicago.edu/publications/turning-around-low-performing-schools-chicago-full-report" target="_blank">University of Chicago study</a> showed turnarounds and other dramatic school transformations do result in a younger, whiter teaching force.</p><p>That study also showed that test scores improve more rapidly after a school is turned around, outpacing improvement at the rest of the district&rsquo;s schools.</p><p>Chicago Public School&rsquo;s announcement coincided with dismissal from school Friday, when students at the affected schools took papers home announcing the shakeups. CPS says it mistakenly sent home papers with students from two other schools; Parker Community Academy in Englewood and Mason Math and Science Academy were being considered for turnaround, but Byrd-Bennett said they are showing enough progress to continue with their current staffs.</p><p>Hearings on the turnarounds will be held in April. The board of education is slated to vote on the turnaround proposals at its April 23 meeting.</p><p><em>See below for CPS powerpoint provided to reporters on AUSL performance. </em></p></p> Sat, 22 Mar 2014 10:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/all-staff-be-dismissed-three-low-performing-cps-schools-109906 CPS questions students—without parent consent—in ongoing investigation of their teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-questions-students%E2%80%94without-parent-consent%E2%80%94-ongoing-investigation-their-teachers-109897 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3486web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Parents at a Chicago elementary school are irate after their children were questioned at school Thursday by CPS officials investigating their teachers.</p><p>The district is looking into potential &quot;teacher misconduct&quot; around recent boycotts of the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.</p><p>Parents at Drummond Montessori in Chicago&rsquo;s Bucktown neighborhood say they found out through parent e-mails, texts and Facebook messages that Chicago Public Schools Law Department officials were &ldquo;interrogating&rdquo; their children at school. Parents say they had no knowledge the interviews were going to take place, and did not give any prior consent.</p><p>CPS spokesman Joel Hood acknowledged that investigators from the district&rsquo;s law department questioned students &ldquo;about how their teachers had conducted themselves during ISAT testing.&rdquo;</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/teachers-2nd-school-boycott-isat-109797" target="_blank">Drummond is one</a> of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772" target="_blank">two schools</a> where teachers declared publicly that some of them would refuse to administer the ISAT, part of a broader protest against high-stakes standardized testing in schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Activists say more than 125 Drummond students opted out of the exam. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We went there specifically to talk to kids who had chosen to opt out of the ISAT,&rdquo; says Hood, who said investigators asked kids &ldquo;whether the teacher had actively encouraged them not to take the test,&rdquo; among other questions.</p><p>Mary Zerkel was one of a number of parents who called the school as soon as she heard about the investigation and requested her 11-year-old not be questioned.<br /><br />&ldquo;It is so unconscionable. It&rsquo;s just ethically&mdash;it is so wrong,&rdquo; says Zerkel. &ldquo;You&rsquo;re asking a child to implicate their teacher. They&rsquo;re going to be in a closed-door room with the CPS Law Department where they&rsquo;re going to be intimidated; how can they even think they&rsquo;re getting good information out of the children?&ldquo;</p><p>Hood says the district didn&rsquo;t question kids who refused to be questioned or who asked for a parent&mdash;though he could not say whether children were told they actually had that option. Hood says no discipline can come to students from the investigation. He said he did not know why parents weren&rsquo;t notified.</p><p>The chair of Drummond&rsquo;s local school council, Jonathan Goldman, said he was at the school in the morning and spoke with one of the two investigators he saw there. He said the investigator told him that &ldquo;CPS had authority to do this, acting under the doctrine of in loco parentis, which means that the Board can stand in for the parents,&rdquo; said Goldman. &ldquo;Their moral grounds for doing this is certainly very questionable.&rdquo;</p><p>Drummond teacher Juan Gonzalez, one of the teachers who refused to administer the ISAT when it was given earlier this month, says the district has a right to investigate him. But he says CPS should leave students out of it.</p><p>&ldquo;One of my students at the end of the day was very worried that she was going to be responsible for getting me fired,&rdquo; said Gonzalez.&nbsp;</p><p>Drummond teachers have said they are afraid of losing their jobs, but felt obligated to take a stand.</p><p>&ldquo;I stand strong&nbsp; in my decision. I feel I&rsquo;m on the side of right,&rdquo; Gonzalez says. &ldquo;This boycott of the ISAT is not about the ISAT alone,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;It&#39;s about the incredible amount of testing that we give our kids.&rdquo; Gonzalez says the ISAT protest has opened discussion on the issue.</p></p> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 19:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-questions-students%E2%80%94without-parent-consent%E2%80%94-ongoing-investigation-their-teachers-109897 At a school that led protests, some interesting candidates for local school council http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/blaine pic.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A former Chicago Board of Education member is running for what many would consider a far less prestigious position: local school council member at two different Chicago public schools.<br /><br />Rodrigo Sierra was handpicked by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2011 to serve on the city&rsquo;s school board. He stayed until the end of 2012, when Emanuel asked him to become a commissioner for the Chicago Housing Authority.<br /><br />Now, Sierra is running for LSC as a parent representative at InterAmerican Magnet school and as a community representative at Blaine Elementary near his home.<br /><br />Blaine and its <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-principal-rips-cps-school-budgets-emanuel-108108">outspoken principal</a> and LSC were among the loudest in the city to protest budget cuts last summer. &nbsp;In an unusual move, Blaine&rsquo;s council voted to <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130621/lakeview/blaine-lsc-revolts-over-cps-cuts-rejects-budget">reject its budget</a> to send a message to CPS. &nbsp;One of Blaine&rsquo;s current LSC community representatives, Kate Schott Bolduc, <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-07-25/news/ct-met-cps-local-councils-meet-20130725_1_local-school-councils-tif-surplus-funds-cps">helped form a coalition of more than 80 LSCs citywide</a> to protest budget cuts and advocate for more funding.<br /><br />Sierra will face Bolduc and two other candidates in the April LSC election; the two top vote getters win. Sierra says his candidacy is not about trying to silence dissent at Blaine, or anywhere else.<br /><br />&ldquo;What I saw across the city were people really passionate about education, about their kids, speaking out,&rdquo; says Sierra. &ldquo;I wholeheartedly support that. People should be interested and passionate about their children&rsquo;s education&mdash;it&rsquo;s the most important thing we can be focused on right now. &rdquo;<br /><br />Sierra says it would be &ldquo;a big surprise&rdquo; to him if the mayor or anyone on the school board knew he was running.<br /><br />&ldquo;This is just my own personal passion and interest in helping these schools be the best that they can be,&rdquo; says Sierra, who served as deputy press secretary under Mayor Richard J. Daley.<br /><br />Jill Wohl, a former parent and current community member on the InterAmerican LSC, says she thinks it&rsquo;s valuable for high-level school officials to get a taste of what it&rsquo;s like running a school day-to-day.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not as easy as rubber stamping policies sent down from the mayor&rsquo;s office,&rdquo; says Wohl. &ldquo;The 50,000-foot view is really different than what it looks like in the weeds. Too many times I&rsquo;ve seen policies come top-down, and not be informed by how they&rsquo;re going to play out on the ground.&rdquo;<br /><br />Also running for a seat on Blaine&rsquo;s LSC is an employee of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, communications manager Jodie Cantrell.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s raising questions for parents like Tony Porfirio, the current chair of the council.<br /><br />&ldquo;Charter schools and neighborhood schools are battling for the same dollars. And I don&rsquo;t know that I would consider it an amicable relationship right now. I think most people that believe in neighborhood schools feel that charter schools are taking money from neighborhood schools&rsquo; budgets,&rdquo; saysPorfirio.<br /><br />Cantrell says she is running based on a deep interest in education and a desire to get more involved in the Lakeview community where she&rsquo;s lived for two years. She says she wants to help schools figure out how to offer students a great education despite budget cuts.<br /><br />Cantrell and Sierra say they don&rsquo;t know each other.<br /><br />Cantrell did not disclose on her candidate statement that she works for a charter school advocacy organization, but she says she plans to do that tonight at Blaine&rsquo;s local school council candidate forum.<br /><br />The Illinois Network of Charter Schools says three of its 16 staffers are candidates for local school councils, but INCS president Andrew Broy says &ldquo;we don&rsquo;t have any strategy around this. This is just what people are deciding to do on their own time.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/school-led-protests-some-interesting-candidates-local-school-council-109877 At West Side Chicago school, kids go without teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-chicago-school-kids-go-without-teachers-109838 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/lutton no teachers IMG_3500uriah white.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Some of the city&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834">high schools are shrinking</a>. In fact, some are <a href="http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/news/2013/10/02/63600/neighborhood-high-schools-struggle-attract-students" target="_blank">shrinking </a>so dramatically, it&rsquo;s questionable whether students are getting access to a basic education.</p><p>Take the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy on the city&rsquo;s West Side, where students have spent much of this year without key teachers.<br /><br />If you ask seniors Kendale Brice and Janiqua Johnson to list the teachers they&rsquo;re missing at Austin Business, it sounds like they&rsquo;re reading from a job board:<br /><br />&quot;We need a music teacher,&quot; Kendale says.</p><p>&quot;We need a Spanish teacher,&quot; Janiqua adds.</p><p>&quot;Last year we didn&rsquo;t have a Spanish teacher, so we had to take Spanish online,&quot; Kendale says.</p><p>&quot;We need a science teacher&mdash;which is biology and forensic science,&quot; says Janiqua. &quot;We need an English teacher for juniors and seniors.&quot;&nbsp;<br /><br />Keyshawn Fields, a junior slated to take the ACT exam next month, says he had a biology teacher &ldquo;for maybe three weeks at the beginning of the year, then she was gone.&rdquo; Music and Spanish&mdash;requirements for graduation&mdash;are offered online only, students say.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard, because sometimes some students (are) physical learners&mdash;like, they need to be in person with a teacher, and that doesn&rsquo;t help being online,&rdquo; says senior Moeisha Webb, who&rsquo;s in the online music class.<br /><br />WBEZ interviewed a dozen students at Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, and all of them told the same story. Their core courses in English and science have been taught mostly by substitutes this year&mdash;sometimes a different substitute every day&mdash;meaning no homework, and often no classwork.&nbsp; One student said students are passed automatically since there are no teachers.<br /><br />The school&rsquo;s principal, Wayne Issa, says Austin Business has been hit by a string of teachers out on disability leaves&mdash;something he has no control over. Three teachers took other jobs. He says it&rsquo;s hard to fill temporary positions. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had people tell me, &lsquo;I&rsquo;d rather sub (day-to-day) and not be responsible for teaching,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />But there&rsquo;s another problem: Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy is a school that&rsquo;s been losing enrollment. And its tiny size&mdash;186 students total&mdash;exacerbates its problems.<br /><br />&ldquo;What happens is the school is so tiny, that when there are absences, it&rsquo;s felt throughout the school. For instance, I only have one science teacher. So if I had a science department, it would be easier to absorb one teacher being gone,&rdquo; says Issa.<br /><br />The students notice. &ldquo;We have like 40 seniors. That&rsquo;s not a senior class, that&rsquo;s a classroom,&rdquo; says Kendale Brice.<br /><br />Austin Business&rsquo; freshman class has even fewer students&mdash;31. With Chicago&rsquo;s move to per pupil budgeting, it&rsquo;s unclear whether such a small school will be able to afford the minimum seven teachers a high school usually needs&mdash;or even stay in business.<br /><br />Issa says he has the money for English and science teachers, but he says enrollment is a concern.<br /><br />&ldquo;With the amount of high schools we have there&rsquo;s definitely competition amongst those. And with student population declining&hellip;with more choice for parents to go to different places, it just makes sense that (enrollment) is going to go down,&quot; said Issa. &quot;Recruitment is becoming one of the skills that principals like me need to be able to engage in&hellip; in order to exist.&rdquo;<br /><br />Michael Bakalis, president of American Quality Schools, a nonprofit charter school operator that <a href="http://articles.chicagobreakingnews.com/2011-02-24/news/28629449_1_american-quality-schools-elementary-schools-phyllis-lockett" target="_blank">used to run</a> Austin Business and Entrepreneurship, says he tells parents or communities interested in starting a school that they need a minimum number of students to function.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s unlikely you&rsquo;re going to be able to survive financially and do everything you should be doing unless you have about 200-250 kids to start,&rdquo; Bakalis says. &ldquo;And then probably build it up to at least 400 or 500 eventually.&rdquo;<br /><br />Bakalis&rsquo; group used to run Austin Business as a &ldquo;contract&rdquo; school. American Quality Schools gave up the school three years ago, and <a href="http://www.austinweeklynews.com/News/Articles/3-9-2011/Academy%27s-fate-tangled-in-confusion--/" target="_blank">CPS has run it since</a>.<br /><br />Some people believe there are simply too many high schools in Chicago. A West Side charter high school, Chicago Talent Development, announced this year it is phasing out, unable to attract enough students. Other schools with low enrollments are <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/future-uncertain-chicagos-neighborhood-high-schools-108834" target="_blank">skimping on teachers, activities and electives</a>.<br /><br />And even new schools like Austin Business&mdash;which was started as a Renaissance 2010 school after CPS closed down Austin High School in 2004 for poor performance&mdash;are challenged. All three schools that opened in the Austin High building under Renaissance 2010 are struggling to attract kids, and <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-01-28/news/ct-poverty-swinney-met-20140128_1_innovation-park-austin-polytechnical-academy-west-side" target="_blank">struggling to keep promises of a better education</a>. One of the schools, Austin Polytechnical Academy, had to write a grant this year to be able to pay for a college counselor; per pupil funding from CPS did not cover the cost.<br /><br />But ironically, Chicago is adding high schools. The district recently <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558">approved seven new charters</a>&mdash;five of them with high school seats&mdash;meaning students will be spread even thinner across schools like Austin. The district has said it will not close any schools for five years.<br /><br />Uriah White, a junior at Austin Business, is livid that he&rsquo;s had no science or English teachers this year.<br /><br />&ldquo;This ACT thing is very serious for me,&rdquo; says White. &ldquo;This third year is my most important year: (for the) ACT,&nbsp; (to) see what colleges would want me for their schools. But the way it&rsquo;s looking now&mdash;&rdquo; he groans. &ldquo;I know for sure it&rsquo;s going to be a very short few amount of colleges that are going to want any of the kids from Austin.&rdquo;<br /><br />Uriah says he took a science book home to study on his own.<br /><br />Junior Keyshawn Fields says he will tackle the English portion of the ACT &ldquo;just off instincts.&rdquo;&nbsp; But the science portion, he says, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going in there blind.&rdquo;<br /><br />Two school days after WBEZ interviewed students, Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy said it had filled all open teaching positions&mdash;except for one that was vacated Friday.</p><p><em>Linda Lutton is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation" target="_blank">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 11 Mar 2014 17:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/west-side-chicago-school-kids-go-without-teachers-109838 Saucedo teachers spend Day 1 of ISAT teaching; concerns raised about intimidation http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMAG2400.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Teachers at Maria Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared victory Tuesday, saying their protest of the state&rsquo;s Illinois Standards Achievement Test is working. The teachers said they spent the first day of ISAT testing doing what they set out to&mdash;teaching.</p><p>A week ago, teachers at the Little Village school voted unanimously to refuse to give the exam, which normally carries high stakes in Chicago but is being phased out this year. The school district has said boycotting teachers could lose their jobs or even their teaching certificates.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m very, very happy to say today was a victory,&rdquo; said special education teacher Sarah Chambers after the final bell rang at Saucedo on the first scheduled day of testing there. &ldquo;Overall it went smoothly. The kids who were opting out had the test placed in front of them and they were immediately removed to an opt-out room, where teachers who were refusing to give the test&mdash;the boycotting teachers&mdash;were able to teach them,&rdquo; said Chambers.</p><p>Social studies teacher Ferris Akrabawi&nbsp; said he led students in readings from Mahatma Gandhi&#39;s 1922 trial for sedition. &ldquo;One person&rsquo;s insubordination is another person&rsquo;s&hellip; cry for change,&rdquo; Akrabawi says he taught students.</p><p>But the teachers and activists also decried what they said were heavy-handed tactics on the part of schools to try to get students to take the ISAT. <em>Hear more about this by pushing PLAY above.</em></p><p>Chambers said at Saucedo, some parents who had opted their children out of testing rescinded their opt-out letters after getting calls from the school. She said some teachers who had originally voted to boycott the exam ended up administering it, fearing for their jobs.</p><p>In other parts of the city, a teacher from Otis Elementary in West Town said opt out forms signed by parents weren&rsquo;t respected, and kids were given the test anyway. A dad from Jane Addams Elementary on the Southeast Side said his nine-year-old daughter had to watch classmates eat candy and ice cream after they took their test; kids who opted out didn&rsquo;t get any.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey said it was &ldquo;child abuse&rdquo; to put test booklets in front of students whose parents had opted them out of the test. Because state law requires the test be given to all students, some schools handed out test booklets and had teachers read instructions, even to kids who had opted out. Opt out advocates say that put kids as young as eight years old in a situation where they had to choose whether to follow their parent&rsquo;s instruction to skip the test or their teacher&rsquo;s instruction to complete it.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re hearing all these accounts of bullying,&rdquo; Chambers said. &ldquo;Why is this occurring? It&rsquo;s occurring because our CPS is controlled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. And he is a bully.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS parent Cassie Creswell urged the mayor and school officials to be more sensitive to the demands of parents. Creswell said Emanuel had effectively opted his own children out of the ISAT by enrolling them in a private school that gives few standardized tests.</p><p>The district did not respond to questions about particular incidents at schools, but CPS says it won&rsquo;t tolerate acts to coerce or intimidate students into taking the ISAT.</p><p>However, officials say they are in conversations with the state about disciplining the boycotting teachers.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Parents want the right to opt their children out of testing</strong></p><p>On Monday, two dozen Chicago parents filed a complaint asking the American Civil Liberties Union to determine whether parental rights are being violated when it comes to opting their children out of the the ISAT.</p><p>&ldquo;Parents are being asked to rescind their opt out letters, children are being told to call up their parents and opt them back in&mdash;egregious violations of parental rights, egregious mistreatment of children,&rdquo; said Creswell, who is part of the anti-testing group that has spearheaded the opt out effort in Chicago, More Than a Score. The group advocates for less standardized testing in schools.</p><p>But the Illinois State Board of Education says there is no legal mechanism in state law for parents to opt their children out of the federally required accountability exam. All schools must test all third through eighth graders, the state says. Illinois law does allow for students to &ldquo;refuse to engage&rdquo; with a test. Students must be offered the test,&nbsp; but they can refuse it and sit quietly through the testing process, or, if a district allows, read a book during the test, the state board says.</p><p>The state has encouraged parents to have their children take the ISAT. &ldquo;Testing is another point of information that educators can use about children,&rdquo; Illinois State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said. Scores this year will give an indication of how well students are performing against new Common Core standards, he said.</p><p>Chicago Public Schools is not saying how many students have opted out of the ISAT; activists say it&rsquo;s at least 1,500 kids at 80 schools. Some 171,000 Chicago students were scheduled to take the ISAT.</p></p> Wed, 05 Mar 2014 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/saucedo-teachers-spend-day-1-isat-teaching-concerns-raised-about-intimidation-109815 Test protest: Chicago teachers say they'll refuse to give ISAT http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr-by reallyboring saucedo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Protesting what they say is too much standardized testing in schools, teachers at Saucedo Scholastic Academy declared Tuesday they will refuse to administer the state-mandated Illinois Standards Achievement Tests that are scheduled to begin next week.</p><p>&ldquo;This has been building. We&rsquo;ve been discussing this for a long time, and we finally said enough is enough,&rdquo; special education teacher Sarah Chambers told reporters at a frigid Tuesday afternoon news conference outside the school, where she was joined by fellow teachers, supportive parents and students, and&nbsp; Chicago Teachers Union officials.</p><p>Chambers said &ldquo;about 40&rdquo; Saucedo teachers scheduled to administer the ISAT voted in a secret ballot referendum Tuesday morning to boycott the test, and &ldquo;every teacher voted to refuse to give the test&mdash;100 percent. Unanimous,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The action could cost Saucedo teachers their jobs.</p><p>The teacher boycott is a new development in a growing backlash against testing in Chicago public schools&mdash;most of it led by parents up to now.</p><p>The ISAT has become a target this year because it&rsquo;s being phased out. In Chicago&mdash;where the exam usually carries especially high stakes&mdash; scores won&rsquo;t count for school or teacher ratings, student promotions, or admission to selective schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Teachers at Saucedo say they were bolstered by the 320 parents at the school who have yanked their kids from the test. Jason Reese is one of them. His seventh-grade daughter sat in the passenger seat of the family&rsquo;s minivan at dismissal, reading her second novel of the week. Reese says he opted his children out of the ISAT because &ldquo;they&rsquo;re constantly taking tests over and over again. They need to get more instruction in the classroom as opposed to being tested for everything that they do.&rdquo;</p><p>The parent group &ldquo;More than a Score&rdquo; has encouraged parents to have their kids skip the test. The group says parents at 38 different schools have opted their children out so far. The &ldquo;CORE&rdquo; caucus within the teachers union, which currently controls the union, has also been running a campaign to encourage parents to opt their children out.</p><p>But the district has defended the exam. Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has sent letters home to parents asking them not to pull their children out of the test. It will &ldquo;help teachers tailor instructional planning for the following year,&rdquo; the district said in an emailed statement. The test will also give them a taste of questions aligned to the state&#39;s new &ldquo;Common Core&rdquo; curriculum.</p><p>The Illinois State Board of Education believes this is the first time a group of teachers has refused to give the state-mandated exams. A Seattle high school gained national attention last year when teachers there refused to give a standardized test. In late 2002, teachers at Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago said they would refuse to give a district-mandated exam that was unpopular with teachers, the Chicago Academic Standards Exam. CPS eventually ditched it.</p><p>Teachers union vice president Jesse Sharkey called the Saucedo teachers &ldquo;courageous&rdquo; and &ldquo;principled&rdquo; and said he hopes more schools follow suit in the coming days. The union said it would &ldquo;strongly defend&rdquo; Saucedo teachers from any discipline, which Sharkey admitted could include dismissal, though he said it would be &ldquo;absurd&rdquo; for the district to fire teachers &ldquo;for insisting on the right to teach&mdash;which is what they&rsquo;re really doing.&rdquo;</p><p>The union has opposed the widening use of student standardized testing in the district; some of that testing helps determine teachers&rsquo; performance ratings.</p><p>In a statement, CPS said &quot;district employees that fail to execute their job responsibilities face appropriate disciplinary actions.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 25 Feb 2014 05:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/test-protest-chicago-teachers-say-theyll-refuse-give-isat-109772 Teachers union president vows to fight cuts to pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/teachers-union-president-vows-fight-cuts-pensions-109618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/karenlewis.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-4f4111df-eab0-88bc-9e92-a95991dd6897">The head of the Chicago Teachers Union on Friday said she will not accept cuts to retired teachers&rsquo; benefits as a way to ease the district&rsquo;s pension crisis; though she did detail some ideas for easing a funding shortfall of at least $8 billion.</p><p>CTU President Karen Lewis said she was &ldquo;horrified&rdquo; by the controversial overhaul of state worker pensions that became law in December. That law, which scales back benefits for retirees and increases retirement ages for younger workers, has been discussed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration as a possible template for the ailing Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund.</p><p>&ldquo;All right, you can cut pensions,&rdquo; Lewis said. &ldquo;Then what happens to those people? So this is not just about a spreadsheet piece, it&rsquo;s [about] what actually happens to the people.&rdquo;</p><p>Chicago is facing two big challenges with its teachers&rsquo; pension fund: a state-mandated $400-million spike in contributions next year and a system that is critically underfunded. The underfunding is due, in large part, to a decade-long contribution holiday - when Chicago Public Schools paid nothing toward its teachers&rsquo; pensions - that was followed by a few years of reduced payments.</p><p>In an interview with WBEZ on Friday, Lewis said simply delaying the payments is no longer an option. She suggested that CPS needs to reprioritize its budget in order to meet its required $600 million pension contribution next year, pointing to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558" target="_blank">recent decision</a> by CPS&rsquo; board to approve several new charter schools.</p><p>&ldquo;You do have the money,&rdquo; Lewis said of the district. &ldquo;You have to choose to use it. It&rsquo;s a difference between not having the money, [and] having it and not wanting to do it.&rdquo;</p><p>Lewis declined to offer a specific plan for righting the Chicago Teachers&rsquo; Pension Fund, which currently has <a href="http://www.ctpf.org/AnnualReports/cafr2012.pdf" target="_blank">less than half</a> the money it needs to fulfill its long-term obligations. But she did hint at some things she wants to see in a final proposal, which would need approval from state lawmakers.</p><p>Lewis called for a restoration of the designated property tax line item that would exclusively fund Chicago teacher pensions. That&rsquo;s how the system was funded before 1995, when former Mayor Richard M. Daley gained authority over the public schools and that property tax stream was diverted into the district&rsquo;s main bank account.</p><p>And while she said she opposed any changes in benefits for current retirees, Lewis did not rule out changing the benefits of teachers who are still on the job.</p><p>&ldquo;We could have conversations about that,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We could have significant conversations about that. But there are ways to not have to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>But currently, there aren&rsquo;t any conversations between the union and the Emanuel administration, according to Lewis.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t been in negotiations for a while because the person who actually is in charge doesn&rsquo;t wanna be in negotiations,&rdquo; she said, referring to the mayor. &ldquo;He wants a bill.&rdquo;</p><p>The district&rsquo;s most recent offer included eliminating cost-of-living increases for retirees&rsquo; benefits and cutting the amount of money contributed to each teacher&rsquo;s pension by about a third, according to the union.</p><p>A CPS spokesman declined to talk specifics about the district&rsquo;s proposals.</p><p>&quot;For the last two years, the District has been working to reach an agreement with CTU on meaningful pension reform that protects the retirement security of our teachers while avoiding dramatic cuts to the classroom,&rdquo; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &ldquo;We have always been willing to sit down for discussions with the CTU.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, Emanuel budget spokeswoman Kelley Quinn said in an email Friday that the mayor meets regularly with state legislative leaders to discuss the city&rsquo;s agenda in Springfield, including pensions.</p><p>Emanuel and his allies in the state legislature have been emphasizing the need to fix Chicago&rsquo;s municipal pension crisis, now that state lawmakers finally passed a law addressing the state&rsquo;s massively underfunded pension systems. On top of the problem with its teachers pensions, City Hall also faces a crisis with its retirement funds for police, firefighters, laborers and municipal workers, which together, face their own nearly $19.5 billion funding shortfall.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>. Reporters <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">Becky Vevea</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">Tony Arnold</a> contributed to this report.</em></p></p> Fri, 31 Jan 2014 17:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/teachers-union-president-vows-fight-cuts-pensions-109618 CPS approves seven new charter schools http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BoardOfEd1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s Board of Education voted Wednesday afternoon to approve seven new charter schools.</p><p>The controversial move comes less than a year after board members voted to close 50 traditional public schools for low enrollment.</p><p>Board members followed district officials&rsquo; recommendations, made public for the first time at the meeting Wednesday, and approved charters for the following schools:</p><ul><li><strong>Great Lakes Academy Charter School</strong> (location TBD in South Shore, serving grades 1-2 in 2014, eventually serving 576 students grades K-8). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.</li><li><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 will be the 15th Noble Street campus in Chicago). Approved 6-0.</li></ul><p>Jack Elsey, CPS chief of innovation and incubation, said before the vote that the district wanted &nbsp;&ldquo;conditional approval&rdquo; for five of the seven campuses. The board followed those recommendations and gave &quot;conditional approval&quot; to five schools. That means, the board will vote again to determine if the conditions have been met.</p><p>For instance, Instrinsic Schools will have to post high academic marks at its first campus, which just opened in September 2013. Elsey said Intrinsic&rsquo;s first campus must obtain a Tier 1 or Tier 2 rating, the highest of five tiers, this year in order to open a second campus.&nbsp;</p><p>The idea of &quot;conditional approval&quot; is cloudy. In previous years, conditions were established in the writing of the charter&#39;s contract. In a departure from past practice, the board will vote again on these proposals and whether the conditions have been met before they are approved to open. Elsey said another vote will likely be held in May. The following schools recieved conditional approval yesterday:&nbsp;</p><ul><li><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). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Chicago Education Partnership has to re-submit a portion of the initial application--dealing primarily with academics--in the next round of approvals.</em></li><li><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 will be Concept Schools&rsquo; third campus in Chicago). Approved 6-0.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Concept must find principals for both campuses and submit clear facility plans.</em></li><li><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 will be Concept Schools&rsquo; fourth campus in Chicago). Approved 5-1, with board member Carlos Azcoitia voting no.&nbsp;</li><li><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 will be Intrinsic&rsquo;s second charter school in Chicago). Approved 6-0.&nbsp;<em>Conditions: Intrinsic&#39;s first campus must post high test scores this year. The school must also find a building and outline how it will evaluate school leaders.</em></li><li><strong>Noble Street Charter School- Noble Exeter 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 will be the 16th Noble Street campus in Chicago. The network will be authorized to educate 13,875 students). Approved 4-2, with board members Carlos Azcoitia and Andrea Zopp voting no. <em>Conditions: Noble must submit more information about parent and community engagement and its curriculum, and must find a building and a principal.</em></li></ul><p>The school board considered a total of 17 proposals for new charter school campuses Wednesday. Five of them, the Connected Futures Academies, would have exclusively served dropouts.</p><p>District officials recommended that the school board deny the following charter proposals. They were voted down unanimously:</p><ul><li><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)</li><li><strong>Connected Futures Academies Options Charter Schools</strong> (five campuses, all TBD, each serving 165 re-enrolled drop-outs ages 15-21 in 2014).</li><li><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).</li><li><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).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 3</strong> (location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8).</li><li><strong>Curtis Sharif STEM Academy Charter School 4 </strong>(location TBD, serving grades K-5 in 2014, eventually serving 300 students grades K-8)</li></ul><p>State law now allows any charter school denied by a local district to appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission. Since its creation, the commission has overturned CPS decisions on two schools run by the politically connected group called Concept Schools.</p><p><strong>State appeals process adds new twist</strong></p><p>Several aldermen spoke Wednesday and asked the board not to approve any new schools this year or delay approvals until they could analyze the potential impact on the district&rsquo;s existing schools.</p><p>&ldquo;I encourage you to delay your decision today and undertake a real study of academic performance of charters and evaluate them together with a real master facilities plan,&rdquo; said Ald. Scott Waguespack (32rd).</p><p>But delaying a vote or denying all proposals this year could backfire on CPS.</p><p>The Illinois Charter School Commission can and already has overturned CPS decisions if it deems a charter proposal high quality.</p><p>Or as Board Vice President Jesse Ruiz put it Wednesday, &ldquo;If we don&rsquo;t, Springfield will.&rdquo;</p><p>Elsey, the district official, said schools that are approved by the state commission operate &ldquo;inside CPS boundaries, but outside of our control.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922753&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;We lose the ability to hold these schools accountable and ensure they are delivering a high quality education to Chicago&rsquo;s children,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said the union and CPS should team up to eliminate the commission. In an uncharacteristic agreement with the union, Board President David Vitale agreed.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922506&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>But Greg Richmond, chair of the Illinois Charter School Commission, said the appeals process is nothing new. Charter applicants have been able to appeal local decisions to the state since the charter school law was passed in 1996. The Illinois State Board of Education used to deal with appeals, but in 2011, the commission was created to handle appeals.</p><p>Since the commission was created, Richmond says, they&#39;ve only overturned two local decisions.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;Anyone looking at the numbers would say that this commission has not been overly generous,&quot; Richmond said.</p><p><strong>Will new charters help alleviate overcrowding?</strong></p><p>The most recent request for proposals for new charter schools asked that applicants look to open in areas that CPS officials deemed &ldquo;priority areas.&rdquo; These are neighborhoods where schools are overcrowded based on the district&rsquo;s utilization standards.</p><p>One board member, Carlos Azcoitia, voted down four of the seven schools that were ultimately approved for that very reason.</p><p>&ldquo;I wanted to target the schools that were overcrowded,&rdquo; Azcoitia said. &ldquo;Of course, we didn&rsquo;t want to go into areas where we had closed schools.&rdquo;<br /><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922299&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Andrea Zopp also said she &ldquo;struggles significantly&rdquo; with approving new schools in the wake of closing so many.</p><p>One school approved Wednesday that will be opening in a so-called &ldquo;priority area&rdquo; is the Noble Street-ITW David Speer Campus. CPS says the school will alleviate overcrowding at Taft High School.</p><p>Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), however, pointed out that Taft and the future Noble school would actually be miles apart.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re building a high school six and a half miles away from a crowded high school,&rdquo; Sposato said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand the thinking on that.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/130922950&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Kerry Murphy, a parent of two children at Dever Elementary, said the community does not need more high schools. Its overcrowding issues are at the local grammar schools.</p><p>But CPS officials say demographic data indicate that many high school-aged students who live in the Belmont-Cragin area travel to Noble schools in other neighborhood.</p><p><strong>More new schools on the horizon&nbsp;</strong></p><p>Not all seven of the schools approved Wednesday will open in September. Two are planning to open in September 2015 and the ones with &quot;conditional approval&quot; will have to jump through a few hoops before their schools become reality.</p><p>Nine others had been approved in previous years to open this fall, but Elsey says not all are on track to do so. For example, the UNO Charter School Network, <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/watchdogs/23185796-452/sec-probes-uno-financing.html">which is dealing with an SEC investigation right now</a>, &nbsp;has two campuses that were approved in previous years, but are not yet open. CPS and UNO officials say they do not plan to open any new UNO schools this fall.&nbsp;</p><p>Still, the expansion of privately run, publicly funded charter schools may not slow down anytime soon.</p><p>After the board meeting, Elsey told WBEZ the district will open its next Request for Proposals sometime this spring, likely in March or April. He said the district wants to shift the timeline so that the board will vote on new schools in the fall, rather than January. That will give schools more time to plan for a September opening.</p></p> Wed, 22 Jan 2014 13:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-approves-seven-new-charter-schools-109558