Charter school parents protest CPS Board vote Thursday on renewal terms

Thursday, January 25, 2024
CPS Board charter school renewals vote draws protest
Parents of Chicago charter school students protested outside the Chicago Board of Education Thursday morning as they voted on renewal terms.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The future of nearly 50 charter schools is on the table at Thursday morning's Chicago Public Schools Board meeting.

Dozens of charter school parents and leaders rallied outside CPS headquarters Thursday morning during the board meeting.

They're protesting the board's proposal for short-term renewal lengths for charter schools, saying they are anti-charter and anti-school choice.

"Over 75% of Chicagoans send their children to a school that isn't in their neighborhood. How could we possibly eliminate a family's ability to choose the best school for their child?" Noble Schools CEO Constance Jones said. ""How can this board claim to support a quality public education when it is actively trying to get rid of schools exactly that."

The Chicago School Board will vote Thursday on final renewal terms for 49 charter schools across the city, affecting about 28,000 students.

All are guaranteed to be renewed since there is a ban on closing schools in Chicago until next year, but most have fought for deals to stay open for another 10 years, arguing it would mean stability for their students.

Instead, Chicago Public Schools staff are recommending four years or less for all of them, continuing a trend in recent years of short contract renewals.

The district says less time is about accountability, while charter advocates say more time is about stability for thousands of minority parents.

"As a parent, I demand a strong renewal term so we can feel secure and feel safe about our children's future," said Myisha Shields.

The future over charter, elective enrollment and magnet schools came under fire when the board passed a resolution in December prioritizing neighborhood school as the district builds a five-year strategic plan.

"This is also grounded in the belief that every family has a right to a high quality public education without taking a test or winning an admissions lottery and that is what this vision is about," said CPS School Board Vice President Dr. Elizabeth Todd-Breland.

The board made it clear its vision does not mean closing selective enrollment or magnet schools, and for now charter schools will remain an option.

"We are not reverting back, I want to be clear, to some pre-choice era. We are committing to supporting our neighborhood schools moving forward," Todd-Breland said.

But charter supporters insist reducing the length of charter contracts is indeed reverting back.

"This is not about accountability, this is a political game toward the end of school choice," Jones said.

Public meetings about the five-year plan prioritizing neighborhood schools will continue until February, and the school board said it will announce more opportunities for the public to weigh in after that.