The Chicago Board of Education approved proposals for seven new charter schools Wednesday amid protests from the Chicago Teachers Union and supporters of public schools.
The seven approvals were among a total of 22 new charter proposals submitted for review.
"As an educator, providing high-quality schools for our children is my top priority,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “As a District, we must continue to support and expand high-quality education options throughout the city to meet the goal that our students are 100 percent college-ready and 100 percent college-bound.”
The approved schools include one campus at Great Lakes Academy, Noble Street, Noble Exeter, Chicago Education Partnership and Intrinsic, and Chicago Lawn and Chatham campuses for Concepts Schools.
Noble Exeter, Chicago Education Partnership, Intrinsic, and the two Concepts Schools were approved with contingencies, requiring charter operators follow an individualized contingency plans to meet the district’s standards before they granted full approval.
Supporters of public schools huddled up and bundled up in an overnight demonstration outside the Chicago Board of Education headquarters.
With temperatures in the single digits, the Chicago Teachers Union led the overnight vigil, at 125 S. Clark St., to protest charter school expansion ahead of a school board vote on 17 charter school proposals.
CTU president Karen Lewis released a statement Wednesday calling the CPS decision "hypocritical in the face of recent school closings," and that it "illustrates the predatory corporate-led agenda currently waged on public schools."
Aldermen also lined up on different sides of the issue. Alderman Nick Sposato (36th) worries the charter schools steer public funds away from neighborhood schools.
"They are totally disregarding the one simple thing that they agreed for, and I can get no help with this process that I've had, I've been fighting this for almost a year now with no help from the Board of Education," Sposato said.
But Alderman Emma Mitts (37th) likes charter schools.
"Let the families have their choice, let them have their choice wherever they want to send them," Mitts said during the meeting.
Protesters said the district left them little chance to be heard.
"We turned out to their public hearings and they chose to ignore us, as they always do, so we had to do something a little outrageous to get people's attention," said CTU Financial Secretary Kristine Mayle.
Critics maintain CPS should invest in neighborhood schools.
Byrd-Bennett noted that the majority of this year’s charter proposals were either denied or withdrawn by their sponsors.
“We will insist on only the highest-quality schools for our children – be they traditional public schools, public charters or any other kind. Our children get only one chance at an education, and we must make sure to make it count,” she said.
All schools approved will open in the 2014-15 school year.