Story URL:
Story Retrieval Date: 4/17/2015 11:56:09 AM CST

Top Stories

Danielle Cadet/MEDILL

Charter school opponents rallied in the lobby of CPS headquarters prior to the board meeting. Proponents rallied outside the building.    

Charter school vote doesn’t extinguish controversy

by Danielle Cadet
Jan 27, 2011


The smoke hasn’t entirely cleared at Chicago Public School headquarters after the Board of Education’s vote Wednesday approving 13 proposals for new or expanded charter schools. The vote came as no surprise to those on either side of the issue. But the decision has sparked a new flame in the ongoing clash between backers of charter schools and those who prefer neighborhood schools.

“We weren’t surprised, we’re delighted,” said Andrew Broy, president of Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, agreed with the first part of Broy’s comment. In a statement released after the vote, she said she wasn’t shocked by the result either. But she said that more action needs to be taken.

“It’s time to hold charters accountable,” she said. “The board has not done that for over 10 years now. So, no, their vote is no surprise today.”

Teachers Union representatives have argued that too much money needed by neighborhood schools is being allocated to charter schools. Charter school supporters disagree.

At Wednesday’s board meeting,  union member Alexandra Guevara said that public forums about charter school expansion were not adequately publicized.

“The Saturday, Jan. 15, public forum,” she said, “made it clearly apparent that the Office of New Schools gave charter providers and parents personal and advance notice of these supposed public forums. It was as if we crashed a party we were not invited to.”

She asked that the board investigate the Office of New Schools for “flawed practices.”

In a phone conversation after the meeting, Broy said that he and his Illinois Network members found out about community forums on the CPS website.

Fierce controversy over the proposals for charter school expansion has been going for the past two months, and confrontations continued Wednesday. Hundreds of charter school supporters and opponents, armed with picket signs and megaphones, began gathering outside the Board of Education’s downtown headquarters at 5 a.m. for a rally later that morning. The board meeting opened at 10:30 a.m. and included a public participation segment that ran until 3:30 p.m.

But the atmosphere during the final vote, announced at approximately 5 p.m., was serene. Only about 30 of those attending the meeting stayed to hear the decision. Both the board room and sidewalk outside the building resembled a ghost town shortly before the school board’s verdict. Some who stayed for the vote said they knew what the result would be.

“When they come back in here, it’s gonna be a 10-minute meeting,” said Okema Lewis, a CPS teacher. “They’re just going to go down the line and approve them.”

Broy said the battle between schooling methods is counterproductive and he hopes to see it come to an end.

“There’s no conflict between supporting charter school options and neighborhood schools,” he said. “For some reason in this city we pitch it as an either or when we should be finding ways to partner and learn.”