Over the years, CPS has saturated communities with declining populations with charterschools, without really looking at the underlying demographics to demonstrate whether ornot there would be long term population growth to support the neighborhood school andthe new charter school. We have a situation where nearly 100 new schools have beencreated, with no evidence of demand, except the mysterious charter school waiting liststhat have never been made public. During the teachers strike we read accounts in thenewspapers how charter school operators had open slots. It is clear that this problem of under-utilization could have been avoided with proper planning.5.
CPS is using the budget deficit as cover to justify closing over 100 schools, saying thatthey could save up to $800,000 a year for every school they close. This represents a littlemore than 8% of the current $1 billion budget deficit. Assuming that these closureshappen at a rate of 20 schools per year, this translates into about 1.5% of the budgetdeficit this year. At the same time, newspaper articles indicate that CPS plans to build60 new charter schools. Most of the under-utilized school buildings will be rented tocharters, or sold to investors, who will then rent to charters. Generally speaking, themoney that charters will use to rent the buildings will come from the same per studentstate funding that CPS is already using to support utility and other facility costs. Whatwe will more likely see is a shift in line items in the CPS budget. Rather than seeingthese costs reflected in building maintenance expenses they will more than likely beincluded in the contract cost for charter schools. As you know, these costs are notitemized.6.
CPS has not been forthcoming with the public about school closures. In fact they seem tobe working more closely with charter operators like UNO, than they are with their owncommunity advisory councils when it comes to facilities planning. For example, asrecently as the earlier part of November, we read articles that quoted CEO Barbara ByrdBennett as saying there is no list of school closures. We were on Facebook and saw acopy of a letter from Juan Rangel the CEO of UNO, suggesting that attendees for a
private screening of Won’t Back Down advocate for a parent trigger law that will force
schools to close, be turned around or taken over by a charter school if half the parentsfrom the school sign a petition. He had a list of over 80 schools that presumably couldbe targets. Twelve of the schools are based in North Lawndale. This may not be anofficial list, but they got data from somewhere to indicate that these schools were introuble. CPS needs to work more closely with its community advisory councils to sharedata that will help them give more informed advice on school closings.7.
In 2010, the State Legislature created the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force toensure a research driven facilities plan developed with significant community input. TheTask Force includes the CPS Chairman, CEO and youth representative, along withmembers of the Legislature and community groups. Illinois law requires a 21-day publiccomment period and a draft of proposed guidelines by November 1. CPS was latereleasing draft guidelines and much of the public comment process is being completedonline or via phone conference. To the best of our knowledge, no public hearings arecurrently scheduled. This flies in the face of the intent of the law, as many people do nothave access to the internet or are unable to participate in a massive conference call.