Footnote Credit: Illustration by Kurt Mitchell

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May 24: 2010 plans

CPS begins accepting proposals for the next round of Renaissance 2010 schools.

District officials say they are looking for proposals for high schools with

curricula focusing on technology, math and science, vocational education, performing

arts and language immersion. The district also says the Seed Foundation, which

operates a residential charter in Washington, D.C., has expressed interest in

opening a charter in Chicago. A residential school could cost $20,000 per pupil,

compared to $5,000-$6,000 for other Renaissance schools.

June 2: Budget cuts

To save $25 million, the district lays off 156 central office workers, eliminates

consultants and cuts raises for central office staff from 4 percent to 2 percent.

CPS Budget Director Pedro Martinez warns of more cuts to come, including fewer

janitors and aides, and cuts in after-school sports, music and busing. As a

last resort, the district will increase class sizes in high schools. CPS will

receive $82 million in state aid following a last-minute budget deal in Springfield,

but still must close a $90 million budget hole.

June 2: Charter trouble

Parents of students at the Chicago Children’s Choir Academy Charter are

upset about the group’s decision to pull out of the school. Choir officials

say the group does not have the expertise or resources to run a school and never

should have applied for the charter. Parents and school staff have submitted

a proposal from a local business group to take over the charter and keep its

music-oriented curriculum. But CPS and choir officials are reportedly considering

a competing plan that would change the school’s focus.

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Baltimore: Charter spending

The district plans to file a federal complaint challenging a ruling by the Maryland

State Board of Education that requires school systems to provide the same per-pupil

spending to charter and regular public schools, according to the May 11 Baltimore

Sun. Baltimore Schools Chief Bonnie Copeland is asking other superintendents

to support the fight. District officials say the ruling will take funding away

from students in regular schools because the system would have to include all

its revenue, including federal money intended solely for poor children, in its

per-pupil calculations. With that formula, Baltimore might have to provide charters

with up to $11,000 per pupil. Five new charters are slated to open in Baltimore

this fall, while seven existing public schools want to convert to charters.

New Orleans: Privately managed

The Orleans Parish School Board voted 4-3 to give a private management company

unprecedented financial control over the school system, including the power

to hire and fire workers, appoint the district’s top financial managers

and grant contracts, according to the May 24 Times-Picayune. The board’s

three African American members voted against the move, saying it would disenfranchise

citizens who elected them. The three white members and one Hispanic voted for

the plan. The New York-based company, Alvarez and Marsal, was given a $16.8

million contract and will report directly to the state superintendent. The School

Board will retain authority over academic decisions. In St. Louis, Alvarez and

Marsal made drastic job cuts, closed some 20 schools and cut nearly $80 million

from a $500 million budget.

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“Transparency helps. Once everything is out there,

it becomes much more difficult to defend [inequities].”

Marguerite Roza, research assistant professor at the University

of Washington, at a June 1 Catalyst forum on how information about school-by-school

funding disparities bolsters the case for more equitable, student-based budgeting.

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Murray Language Academy has transferred its 7th and 8th grades

to Canter Middle, a neighborhood school. Pershing Magnet has been changed to

a K-3 neighborhood school. Does CPS intend to do away with magnet schools?

Adenia Linker, parent, Murray Language Academy

Magnet schools offer a specialized curriculum, accept students

from throughout the city, receive additional funds and must maintain a balance

of white and minority children where possible, according to the CPS magnet school


Jack Harnedy, chief officer of academic enhancement, says the

board has no plans to convert Murray or eliminate magnet schools.

However, a controversial School Board directive in March calls

for splitting Pershing into two separate primary and upper grade schools next

fall. Both will have to admit all children within their new attendance boundaries.

Outside students will be admitted via a lottery.

Harnedy says the district is converting five neighborhood schools

into magnets. But several schools, like Pershing, will have to accept neighborhood

students and admit others through lottery. A fourth school, Michele Clark High

in Austin, became a selective magnet school last fall.

As Catalyst went to press, the district was still selecting a

fifth school for conversion.

E-mail your question to

or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,

IL 60604.

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A recent report from the Washington, D.C.-based Progressive Policy

Institute lauded the success of Chicago’s charters. One factor behind

better performance, which the report did not mention, is a longer school day

and year. While state law requires a 176-day school year and

5 hours of instruction per day, Chicago’s charters go

beyond those requirements, according to the state’s annual charter school

report for 2005. Charters provide anywhere from 169

to 210 school days, with an average of 181

days. And while the CPS school day is usually 9 a.m.- 2:30

p.m., charters usually start school between 8-8:30

a.m. and end at 3-3:30 p.m.

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