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Despite Over $1M In CPS Funds, UNO Rogers Park School Quality Ratings Fall

By Linze Rice | November 10, 2015 9:36am | Updated on November 11, 2015 11:56am
 Fliers and door hangers were spread throughout the neighborhood to advertise the charter school when it opened in 2012.
Fliers and door hangers were spread throughout the neighborhood to advertise the charter school when it opened in 2012.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — Despite a nearly $1.4 million bump to its 2016 budget, some key school quality ratings at UNO Rogers Park show a sharp decline from last year's numbers.

The combination elementary and high school charter school was one of the few Rogers Park schools to receive additional funding this year, and certainly garnered the largest increase — $1,375,205.

Yet some ratings, like the number of freshmen on track to graduate and how many students are meeting (or exceeding) national growth averages in reading and math, are on the decline.

For example, between last year and this year, the school's freshman on-track number fell by 12.5 percentage points, while the number of students meeting or exceeding national growth averages in reading and math on standardized tests fell by nearly 21 percentage points.

The school, housed in the old St. Scholastica Academy building at 7417 N. Ridge Blvd., also leveled down from earning the district's highest rating in 2015 (Level 1+) down two slots to a Level 2+.

The school's growth in reading scores also dropped. While it the scores exceeded the growth at 78 percent of schools last year, the growth was better than 40 percent of schools this year. Growth in math scores was better than 67 percent of schools, down from 90 percent last year. 

Hispanic students at the school — which was designed in 1998 "as a way to effect positive change in predominantly Hispanic communities," according to its website — also saw declines in growth when compared to schools nationwide. 

CPS did not include graduation rate data from UNO in its annual school quality rankings but UNO boasts an 83 percent graduation rate online. Requests for those statistics from CPS and UNO by DNAinfo were not returned.

When UNO Rogers Park got its budget this summer, it was slated to get $1.6 million from CPS, $724,491 of that money due to an expected 151 increase in enrollment. In reality, only 35 new students enrolled at UNO according to 20th day enrollment numbers provided by CPS.

The UNO community group needs the money to keep from closing its doors, according to a report by the Sun-Times last week that said a memo from CEO Rick Cerda told employees the organization was essentially "on the brink of insolvency."

It's the result of an ongoing feud between the United Neighborhood Organization and UNO Charter School Network, which operate independently of each other.

According to the Sun-Times, the UNO community group’s lawyer Michael Forde told the charter network’s attorney, “UNO will have to close its doors in a matter of days,” due to problems stemming from paying rent for school facilities.

If the community group does not get the $4 million it says it is owed for rent and "management fees" from the charter network — though the community group does not operate or run any of the schools, they own the buildings — they'll soon face bankruptcy, according to Becky Carroll, an UNO community group representative.

If the community group UNO files for bankruptcy, the UNO Charter School Network — a group of 16 schools that now operate separately from UNO — could be hurt by the move, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said Tuesday night.

Time Sun-Times report also found that about 90 percent of UNO's funding comes directly from CPS, meaning funds allocated to schools from the district are crucial.

This year, UNO Rogers Park is working with a total budget of $10,087,433 between its 764 students.

For comparison, Philip C. Rogers Elementary School in West Ridge, which has one more student than UNO Rogers Park, has a 2016 budget of 6,528,177 — only a $100,652 increase from last year.

Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), a Far North Side resident, parent and vocal school advocate, said the funding discrepancies between charters like in the UNO network and neighborhood schools like Sullivan High School and Gale Elementary "highlights the flawed nature of school funding allocation."

"In a neighborhood where Gale School has dealt with severe structural issues including peeling lead paint and non-functional fire alarms, I can think of far better use of resources than a fiscally insolvent charter operator that has faced federal investigation and continually fails to improve educational opportunities for children," Cassidy told DNAinfo.

Neither CPS or UNO representatives would respond to request for comment.

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