CITY HALL — A resolution seeking a moratorium on new charter schools this year was signed by 42 aldermen Thursday.
Seeking to close a loophole that has bedeviled Chicago Public Schools, the resolution, submitted by Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), asks for a freeze on new charters both in the city and across the state through the Illinois State Board of Education.
A previous resolution calling for a citywide moratorium on charters, submitted by Ald. Matthew O'Shea (19th), got sidetracked in the Rules Committee.
State law allows charters to open even if the local district doesn't want them. CPS has denied some charter applications, only to have them approved by the Illinois State Charter School Commission. At that point, CPS has to fund the schools, without having any say over their operation.
Sawyer's resolution asks to halt new charters entirely across the state for the 2015-16 school year.
"Just a few years after CPS closed 50 public, neighborhood schools, and with our school system facing a continued funding crisis, the last thing we need is 22 new, privately managed charter schools added to the pool," Sawyer said. "The vast majority of aldermen oppose the opening of new charters this year, while we face a massive budget crisis and no path to adequately funding our neighborhood schools."
Sawyer said the current system pits charters against neighborhood schools in a "zero-sum game."
"With so many neighborhood schools taking severe budget cuts, it is common sense that we should attempt to steady the ship before pushing forward with new schools," he added. "We need to slow this process down. Charter schools are also having problems filling seats, so the mission of these schools is becoming more about marketing than education. Let's deal with our current financial difficulties, see what is working and what is not working. and then do what is best for all our children."
CPS, however, wouldn't commit to the moratorium.
"Whether at STEM, [International Baccalaureate], neighborhood or charter schools, we are equally committed to providing our students and parents with high-quality choices and to hold every school, regardless of school type, accountable to rigorous academic standards," said CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey.
He added, "While CPS faces serious financial challenges, we must continue to invest in high-quality schools and programs to protect our academic gains and ensure our students graduate ready for college, career and life."
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