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Urban Prep Academies ceremony

Urban Prep Academies has a college signing ceremony each spring. The school is known for getting all its graduates into college.

Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

CPS decision not to renew Urban Prep charter OK, appellate judge rules

The ruling means charter schools are not protected by the state’s school closing moratorium, which ends next year.

An appellate judge ruled Thursday that the Chicago Board of Education was within its rights to not renew Urban Prep Academies’ charter contract and that charter schools are not protected by the state’s school closing moratorium, which ends next year.

Chicago Public Schools says the ruling won’t have any immediate impact on Urban Preps’ 300-some students and that it will communicate any changes to families.

The charter school network has two South Side schools, one in Bronzeville and the other in Englewood. They are the city’s only single-sex Chicago Public schools, serving almost all Black boys. It has been lauded for getting all its graduates into college.

The board could move to have the district step in to take over the charter school, as it was planning to do last year.

Urban Preps’ attorney had no comment.

The appellate decision is important because it frees the board to vote not to renew charter school contracts. For the last year, the board was hamstrung by the Circuit Court ruling that a state school closing moratorium applies to charter schools.

The board had voted to revoke Urban Prep’s’ charter after a series of fiscal and management problems that included allowing its founder to interact with students after being accused of sexual misconduct. The inspector general also found that some students went months without getting required special education services.

The board, though, acknowledged that Urban Prep was important and decided that instead of closing its two schools, it would take control of them. Last summer it had hired a principal and teachers for the schools.

But then, the Circuit Court ruled last summer that revoking the charter was akin to closing the school, which the moratorium prevented. In response to the Circuit Court ruling, the board approved in December one year charter renewals for the campuses.

The appellate court rejected that ruling, saying that if the state legislature wanted the moratorium to extend to charter schools, it would have said so. It noted that a separate law gives CPS the power to authorize charters and revoke them if they are not meeting the terms of their agreement.

The moratorium expires in January of 2025, once the school board transitions from a fully appointed board to one that is partially elected.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ.

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