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Chicago Aldermen Call for Charter School Expansion Moratorium

Evan F. Moore | 9/30/2015, 11:32 a.m.
Last week, during the City of Chicago’s last city council meeting, 42 out of the 50 alderman called on the ...

Last week, during the City of Chicago’s last city council meeting, 42 out of the 50 alderman called on the Illinois State Board of Education and Chicago Board of Education to jointly impose a moratorium on charter school expansion for the 2015-2016 school year.

The resolution stated:

“WHEREAS, The Chicago Public School (CPS) is currently in the midst of significant financial strain having recently passed an annual budget that has an operating deficit of $500 million dollars, and

WHEREAS, there have been more than 1000 layoffs in district-run schools in the last 3 months, with special education and bilingual education the most impacted among others”

The moratorium went on to cite a study conducted by the,” Raise Your Hand for Public Education” organization, a group that advocates for quality public education and contends, that Illinois schools has over 12,000 un-filled charter school seats. The study went on to say that half of Chicago’s charter schools have un-filled seats.

Among the moratorium’s sponsors were Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th-Ward), Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th-Ward) and Ald. Michael Scott, Jr. (24th-Ward).

Sawyer says the city’s current financial climate can’t allow for more charter schools.

“Right now, we’re in a seriously starved financial situation. I think it is important to step back and look at what we’re doing before we makes commitments to these charter schools,” Sawyer said. “We have open seats available at charter and CPS schools that need to be filled. Financially, it’s not the smart thing to do. I asked for a cooling off period.”

Sawyer went on to say he understands why some of his fellow city council members did not sign off.

“That’s what inspired 41 of my colleagues to sign off on a resolution. The majority of my colleagues who didn’t sign off have charter schools they are trying to secure so I understand that.”

Hairston, who has Gary Comer College Prep, a Noble Street Charter School, in her ward, says that local public schools should get the funding needed.

“Public education in the city of Chicago is at a critical point. We ought to promote and finance public schools. That’s what grows and stabilizes our neighborhoods,” Hairston says. “We want to have good public schools as the backbone of our community.”

Hairston also said that she made sure that the charter school in her ward offered an education tailored to the specifics of the neighborhood.

“I was very involved. It was something new and something innovative. It was something specifically designed for the kids of Grand Crossing,” Hairston said. “They are doing things to support the youth socially as well as educationally.”

Among the alderman who did not sign off on the charter school moratorium were Ald. Will Burns (4th-Ward), Ald. Willie Cochran (20th-Ward), Ald. Carrie Austin (34th-Ward) and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th-Ward.) of which none responded to Chicago Citizen Newspaper calls by press time.

Julie Vassilatos, a parent of a CPS student, believes that charter schools have a message that is often misleading.

“They are currently living the result of privatization as it has been practiced in Chicago for almost 20 years. It has decimated the school system, so as you can imagine people are very serious about ending this nonsense,” Vassilatos said. “And the ironic thing in all this is that CPS pushes charters so people have "choice." Choice is, however, a meaningless concept to them because they don't let people have the choices they want, which often are simply decent neighborhood schools.”