| In Short
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.
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.
“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.
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.
or send it to Ask Catalyst, 332 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 500, Chicago,
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.