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Chicago Public Schools Approve Seven Charter Schools amidst Protests

Lee Edwards | 1/29/2014, 11:33 a.m.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced last Wednesday that seven proposals for charter operating schools have been approved for the 2014-2015 ...
Action Now leader Zerlina Smith (left) rallying at CPS Headquarters with fellow parent leader Rousemary Vega (center) and education activist Chuy Campuzano (right). Action Now

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced last Wednesday that seven proposals for charter operating schools have been approved for the 2014-2015 School Year (SY14-15) and the 2015-2016 School Year (SY15-16). However, some community members are strongly opposed to the new schools opening in their neighborhoods.

Last week, before CPS’s announcement of the seven new charters, grassroots organization Action Now staged two separate protests opposing the establishment of new charter schools in Chicago neighborhoods where CPS schools had been closed due to CPS budget cuts.

“I’m sure it is different for different community members but as a whole our members are intent on opposing anything that harms their community,” said Action Now’s Communications Director Aileen Kelleher. “So if these charters try to come in I’m sure our charters will vote to keep fighting charter expansion, to fight for equal funding and equal resources in low income neighborhoods of color. I think it’s a big fight for the soul of public education; one thing you can count on is more and more people are going to be mobilized around this issue”

CPS spokeswoman Jamila Johnson explained the charter school nomination process to the Chicago Citizen Newspaper saying that twenty–two total Requests for Proposals (RFP) were submitted to CPS for the establishment of charter schools in 2013.

Johnson also said that candidates must adhere to specific criteria to be considered for approval including providing data showing that the local community is in support of a charter school in the area.

Additionally, CPS allowed CPS district residents to fill out an application to join the Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NAC) as volunteers. Over the span of 60 plus hours the NAC volunteers reviewed proposals and served as the liaison between their communities, CPS and charter school applicants.

CPS trained NAC volunteers on how to read proposals and how to identify notable elements. NAC volunteers were also instructed on how to seek out academic credentials of the applicants.

“Our children get only one chance at an education, and we must make sure to make it count,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “The new schools approved will offer a broad range of innovative ideas and enriching academic environments for our students and provide them with the knowledge and skills they need and deserve."

The Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 400,000 students in 658 schools. It is the nation's third-largest school system.

For more information about the RFP process visit http://www.cps.edu/NewSchools/Pages/Process.aspx