Charters the Chicago Way

Apr 3, 2013 by

Kim Bellware –

As the Chicago Public School district moves to close 54 neighborhood elementary schools on account of what it calls an “underutilization crisis,” the number of charter schools in the city is expanding.

If a recent Chicago Tribune editorial is to be believed, it’s because demand for charter schools in Chicago is hot, with many would-be charter students spilling on to wait lists. The recent op-ed sources their claim from data provided by Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Tuesday, WBEZ shared the findings from its own analysis, debunking the claim there are 19,000 students waiting to get in to charter schools this year alone. According to WBEZ, the demand for charters in Chicago has been overstated, with many students counted multiple times in the Tribune figure.

In other words, WBEZ reports the 19,000 figure (and others cited by charter advocates) is the number of applications filed — not the actual number of students.

(Read WBEZ’s full analysis of the charter school demand in Chicago.)

The findings come from a biennial report compiled by the Illinois State Board of Education in 2012, with WBEZ crunching their numbers to compare how many applications a school received to the number of available seats.

Last May, the Tribune reported the number of charter schools in Chicago was expected to swell as the district planned to create 60 more charter schools over five years. At that point, charters would comprise one quarter of all schools in CPS.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has expressed her dismay at the district’s closure plan and wondered it’s part of a larger plan to boost charters.

Speaking to the Chicago Reader, Preckwinkle said:

“I talked to somebody the other day I’ve known for a long time who’s in the public school system. Her view was that things were bad and getting worse, and she wondered whether there was a deliberate effort to weaken the public schools in order to make the case stronger for charter schools and contract schools.”

Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president, told HuffPost what’s happening in Chicago is part of a larger effort charter advocates have been “propagating” nationwide.

“Here’s an indication as to how much of a lie [the charter school demand report] was; when we were on strike, Andrew Broy said, ‘We have 3,000 spots,'” Lewis said. “Not only do [charter schools] not have the demand they say they have, they had openings. If they had 19,000 students demanding to get on the list, why is [Broy] saying they have 3,000 spots?”

Lewis expressed her doubt at the purported demand for charters.

“[Charter schools] are running around the week before school starts, knocking on doors trying to get parents to come to the charters,” she added.

According to the Guardian, education policy scholar Pauline Lipman calls Chicago the “incubator, test case, and model for the neoliberal urban education agenda,” because of “programs like Renaissance 2010, mayoral control of schools with an unelected CEO and school board, and the 110 charter schools that have cropped up in recent years.”

HuffPost reached out to CPS for an up-to-date number of charter schools slated for opening in the 2013-2014 year — the same period the slated school closures will go into effected — as well as a reaction to the charges the demand for Chicago charter schools has been overstated. We will share the district’s forthcoming response when it is received.

via Chicago Charter School Demand: New Analysis Shows Demand For Charters In District ‘Overstated’.

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