The Chicago Board of Education last week approved the creation of 15 new contract and charter schools under Mayor Richard Daley’s plan for improving public school performance.

“It’s about a lot more than education. It’s really about a movement for social justice,” said Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan. “Our kids desperately need to have the best education possible.”

As with previous Renaissance 2010 initiatives, the board’s action drew protests from the teacher’s union and community activists. A total of 11 high schools and four elementary schools will be created, continuing the Renaissance 2010 plan. The schools will not require the construction of new facilities, but will either take over vacant buildings from previously closed schools or share a facility with an existing school.

The new high schools are:

 Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, 231 N. Pine;

 University of Chicago Charter High School, site to be determined;

 Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men?”Englewood Campus, 6201 S. Stewart;

 Noble Street Charter High School: Ohio Campus, 1337 W. Ohio;

 Noble Street Charter High School: Cortland Campus, 4131 W. Cortland;

 Metropolitan Academy of Science, site to be determined;

 Aspira, site expected be on the Northwest Side, opening in 2007;

 Chicago International Charter School: Ellison Campus, 8001 S. Honore;

 The international charter school is approved to open another high school in 2007, site to be determined; and

 Perspectives Charter School, 8131 S. May, will open two high schools at Calumet High School in the next two years.

The new elementary schools are:

 Catalyst Charter: Austin, site to be in the Austin neighborhood, opening in 2007;

 Catalyst Charter: Lawndale, located in Howland Elementary, 1616 S. Spalding;

 Providence Englewood, located in Bunche Elementary, 6515 S. Ashland; and

BULET 21st Century Charter School, site to be determined.

According to the Renaissance 2010 Plan, 100 new schools will open their doors during the next five years. The plan seeks to improve academic performance, relieve overcrowded classrooms and create more top-performing high school options for students. Funding will come from the public school budget on a per-pupil basis, though local and national partners will be invited to contribute.

Each Renaissance school will be given a five-year contract and be required to meet predetermined academic standards. Schools meeting these goals will be renewed, while those that fail could face closure.

“The goal of all these new schools is to really break the mold, and we are pushing the envelope,” Duncan said. “We’re trying to be as cutting-edge as possible.”

Among the schools that will break new ground is the Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, which will become the first all-boys public high school in Chicago.

At least 57 schools made proposals to be considered for Renaissance 2010. That list was trimmed to 16 finalists, all of which were approved by the school board except for Chicago Virtual Academy, an elementary school that would provide laptops and Internet access to students who wish to learn at home.

The proposal for Chicago Virtual Academy will be discussed again next month. Creation of the 15 new schools was contested by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.

“We are not against quality education in Chicago public schools,” said Chicago Teacher’s Union President Marilyn Stewart. “Every time you open a charter or contract school, you lose hundreds of certified veteran, expert or superior-rated teachers.

“Everything offered to the charters is what we’ve advocated for [traditional public schools],” Stewart added.

This is the second round of Renaissance 2010 schools approved by the board. Eighteen such schools opened in September for the 2005-06 school year. Sixteen are located in under-performing neighborhoods, including Englewood and the near South Side.

Correction: Contrary to what we reported in the Nov. 10 Austin Weekly News article titled, “Business Academy recommended for new Austin High School,” the Austin TAC (Transitional Advisory Council) did not officially recommend the Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy to the Chicago Board of Education and CPS. The Austin TAC rejected all three proposed schools, including the business academy. The TAC did recognize that the academy’s representatives were the best prepared of the three design team groups. CPS CEO Arne Duncan subsequently selected the business academy for the former Austin High School campus at 231 N. Pine. Classes are scheduled to begin by fall 2006. Two additional schools will be chosen for the Austin campus.