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Charter Opponents Rally Support Ahead of Board of Education Vote

By Ted Cox | January 21, 2014 3:30pm | Updated on January 21, 2014 4:06pm
 Craig Cleve of the Chicago Teachers Union displays a poster before the start of Tuesday's protest.
Craig Cleve of the Chicago Teachers Union displays a poster before the start of Tuesday's protest.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

DOWNTOWN — Charter opponents plan to pull an all-nighter ahead of Wednesday's Board of Education vote on 17 new charter proposals.

Groups like Parents 4 Teachers and Action Now were to join the Chicago Teachers Union in an overnight vigil starting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington Blvd. The groups planned events until 7 p.m., then a stay overnight until 8 a.m. Wednesday, when they were to march on Chicago Public Schools headquarters at 125 S. Clark St.

CTU said the charter expansion would "starve neighborhood schools and reward politicians' friends." CTU has also resisted charter expansion, as most charter schools hire non-union teachers.

The group Communities United for Quality Education charged that the overwhelming majority of those charter proposals were set for neighborhoods that were not designated as "priority areas" by CPS last summer: Albany Park, Belmont Cragin north of Grand Avenue, Chicago Lawn west of Kedzie Avenue, McKinley Park, Midway south of 51st Street, Little Village west of Western Avenue, Reed-Dunning and Sauganash, as well as the Southwest Side and Northwest Side for high schools.

The group said only the Be the Change school set for McKinley Park and Bridgeport and the temporary location of an Intrinsic high school at 4540 W. Belmont Ave. met CPS' stated standards. It called the overcrowding rationale for new charters "greatly flawed."

"CPS is committed to providing and expanding high-quality school options across the city — whether neighborhood, military, [science technology engineering math], [international baccalaureate] or charter — to ensure that 100 percent of our students are college-ready and 100 percent college-bound," said CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett. "CPS' final recommendations on this year's charter applications will reflect this commitment to our students and the families that we serve."

Communities United and Raise Your Hand have charged that the new charters could cost $21 million the first year and more than $250 million over 10 years.

Critics have also attacked the notion of expanding charters after CPS closed 50 schools last year, imposing strict budget cuts on surviving schools last summer.

Much community resistance has focused on a new Noble Charter high school set for 5357 W. Grand Ave., across the street from Prosser Career Academy, 2148 N. Long Ave.

Led by Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), members of the City Council attempted to delay the board vote last week, but their efforts were derailed. Sposato went on to say CPS was playing "bull---- games" with its capacity figures, and pointed to how there are four CPS high schools already within a mile and a half of the proposed Noble site.

Parents 4 Teachers has urged members to contact Board of Education President David Vitale, saying, "We want to protect and support our district schools instead of sabotaging and destabilizing them by funneling money to unneeded charter schools." The group also urged members to contact Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ask him to halt charter expansion.

According to the agenda for Wednesday's board meeting, CPS is considering 17 new charters. The agenda states Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett supports the plans, but that's a clerical matter, and CPS officials have said she may yet withdraw support for some charters, as she did last year. They have also emphasized that state law dictates the district has to assess all charter proposals, regardless of where they're located.