Education freeze: A man braves the cold Jan. 21, to show his opposition against charter school expansions. He and other opponents protested outside the Chicago Board of Education headquarters, one day before the board voted on opening new charter schools in the city. Seven were approved, including one in the Austin neighborhood. (Emily Weinstein/MEDILL)

 

One of the seven charter schools approved last month by the Chicago Board of Education will be in Austin despite come community protests.

The Chicago Education Partnership, in collaboration with the nonprofit organization By The Hand Club for Kids, plans to open its doors to K-1 grades in fall 2015, with the goal of ultimately educating roughly 800 students in grades K-8.

The approval, which came with contingencies, surprised some community members, including Dwayne Truss, a West Side advocate and assistant director of Raise Your Hand.

According to Truss, it makes no sense for Mayor Emanuel to have closed four elementary schools in Austin last summer, then the Board of Education approve this one to open.

“It’s just hypocrisy,” Truss said.

This “maneuver” by CPS, he added, is just another ploy to promote the “privatization of the school system in America.”

“Neighborhood schools will lose money, because they’ll lose students,” Truss said. “The board is ignoring parents and not giving the schools the resources they need.”

The Chicago Education Partnership operates no other schools, though it’s been given the green light to open the charter. Still, the board is requiring the nonprofit to provide further curriculum and academic information before receiving full approval later this year.

Truss said the biggest insult is the lack of experience the nonprofit has in developing and running charter schools.

In a press release issued by nonprofit, it’s Executive Director, Michael Rogers, who’s also the school’s principal, stressed that the school is unique and will benefit the community. That, he added, is in large part due to its collaboration with By The Hand Club for Kids.

“By The Hand is a dynamic afterschool program that has been in existence in Chicago’s most under-resourced neighborhoods for 12 years,” Rogers said.

Donnita Travis, founder and executive director of By The Hand Club, said the collaboration will enable her group to reach more students in Austin. The location for this shared facility is 415 N. Laramie.

According to Travis, the charter school will have a “great academic impact on the students who attend” — citing a poll done by the Education Partnership. Of the 221 registered Austin voters surveyed, 92 percent thought a “character and values-driven curriculum” school for students would be beneficial to the community. 

Taking note of the bitterly-cold weather, Travis stressed that students wouldn’t have to travel as far in bad weather to get to school. Travis added that neighborhoods like Austin have been hurt by budget cuts and school closings.

“It’s a destabilized neighborhood, and it would be beneficial to the children because they could stay in their own neighborhood,” she said.

The Chicago school board approved just seven of the 17 proposed charter schools at its Jan. 22, meeting. Opponents, such as Truss, expressed disappointment that 50 district schools were closed last year and that $10 million have been slashed from the budget this year.

There are currently 126 charter schools operating citywide. 

Andrew Broy, president of The Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said his group is still on track to meet its goal of opening 60 new charters.

Public school advocates camped out overnight in front of the Board of Education’s headquarters the night before the charter vote to protest any new openings. Truss, who participated in the Jan. 21-22 vigil, said he and others participated to show board members that they cannot continue to ignore CPS families. 

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