R2010 Fund promises millions more to CPS charter schools

Somewhat overshadowed by the growing controversy over Mayor-elect Rahm’s schools pick, this Tribune story shows the intention of the privatizers not to listen to the research about charters or to the reasonable concerns of interim CPS CEO Terry Mazany, who said about his decision to postpone consideration of new charter contracts at his first board meeting last January: “We simply do not have any budget flexibility to allocate dollars that will not lead directly to improved educational outcomes for all of our students.”

According to the Trib:

Under the initial $50 million fund, Renaissance gave up to $750,000 each to 70 schools…. With the new fund, charters will get $1 million to $5 million apiece over two to five years. With the additional money, fund executives hope to attract outside charters like California-based Rocketship, YES Prep from Texas, East Coast-based Uncommon and more KIPP — Knowledge Is Power Program — campuses. The latter is the nation’s fastest-growing and most academically successful charter group with a school in Chicago.

While they’ve made academic gains in struggling communities, KIPP and other large charter networks have come under fire recently for high student attrition rates, discipline issues and failing to meet states’ standards.

“These are not innovative charter schools,” says Gary Miron, professor of education at Western Michigan University, who co-wrote a critical report on KIPP. “What we’re talking about are corporate schools or franchises.”

Whether charters are making significant academic gains remains a question, and until that can be resolved, CPS should hold off on adding charters, says Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education.

“Reports show they’re not outperforming neighborhood schools, and they’re taking resources from neighborhood schools,” she said.

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Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.