CPS Sues State Commission Over Charter School Closures | WBEZ
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CPS Sues State Commission Over Charter School Closures

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool filed a lawsuit against the Illinois State Charter School Commission, challenging the commission’s ruling that three Chicago charter schools can stay open.

In November, CPS board members had voted to close Amandla, Bronzeville Lighthouse and Betty Shabazz-Sizemore, citing continued poor performance.

But the Charter School Commission said it would keep the schools open because the district didn’t follow its own policy.

Claypool called the commission’s action “ill-informed” and “destructive.” The lawsuit contends that the commission cannot approve charter schools that do not meet academic standards established by the commission.

All three of the South Side charter schools struggle to get their students to perform well on standardized tests, though they point out that their students are improving.

CPS has several reasons for challenging the commission’s decision.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Claypool are quarreling with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner because they want the state to provide CPS more money. Rauner wants CPS to declare bankruptcy.

Claypool has said that he thinks the decision of the commission-- which is appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education, which is appointed by Rauner--is political.

Also, now the charter school commission will take over running the schools and their funding will come directly from the state. Claypool has said it will cost CPS $13 million annually.

In addition, if the charter school commission actively approves schools then Chicago could wind up with a bunch of schools that are not run by Chicago Public Schools.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy says the lawsuit is an example of charter schools being sacrificial lambs.

“I think this is getting charter schools caught up in the larger political football fight,” he says.

More than 1,000 students are currently enrolled in the three schools.

On top of the lawsuit, the three charter schools are located in Chicago Public Schools buildings and it is unclear if the district is going to kick them out. Broy says that the schools will be in trouble if they need to find new locations.

Other items approved at the meeting:

  • A new bilingual education policy and Jorge Macias as chief of the Office of Language and Cultural Education. Macias told board members that the policy increases standards for bilingual students, improves monitoring and specifies that the optimal program model is dual language.
  • $4.6 million over three years for Grow Your Own-Illinois, Teach for America and Golden Apple to help find and support the training of teachers in high need areas. This is the first time CPS has funded Grow Your Own Illinois--which helps people already working in schools, such as clerks and aides--become teachers.
  • The sale of the building that used to house Leland Elementary Schools in Austin. Leland will house an early childhood program run by VOCEL. In 2013, the building was shuttered and Leland’s entire staff moved to the May Elementary School building. At the new location, Leland was the welcoming school for two closed schools, May and Armstrong.

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her on @wbezeducation or @sskedreporter.

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