Fewer new schools planned next year under Chicago’s Renaissance 2010

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CEO Ron Huberman today announced six recommendations for new schools that he will submit to the Board of Education later this month—about a third the number of recommendations made by Arne Duncan in previous rounds of the Renaissance 2010 proposal process.

District officials say they are scrutinizing the proposals more closely, hence fewer schools made the cut. But cash, or rather the lack of it, appears to be a factor: The district has no money to pay start-up costs for new schools. Also, the goal of Renaissance 2010—to open 100 new schools—will easily be reached next year.

This is the first year that every new school submitted to the board is located in one of the communities identified as most in need of better schools.

The district keeps budgetary considerations in mind, says Jaime Guzman, acting director of Chicago’s Office of New Schools. The district faces an estimated $700 million deficit next year and each new school costs roughly $170,000 to launch.

But Guzman won’t admit that the district has plans to slow down the number of new schools opening.

“The bar gets higher every year as we refine the process,” says Guzman, noting that all six new school recommendations are from operators that have been through the process before. “We have a better sense of what it takes to create a quality school.”

Illinois lawmakers recently lifted the cap on charters, adding another 45 slots for Chicago alone. But Guzman suggests the lifting of the cap came too late for many new proposals to be drawn up and submitted this year. With just one charter available at the start of this year’s vetting process, few charter providers stepped forward with plans, says Guzman.

The one charter slot that was open last May became available after CPS closed the Choir Academy.

The district plans to announce another round of school “turnarounds” in January.

Five of the six schools recommended by Huberman will open as charters—all by operators who already run schools in Chicago. Also, some contract schools are converting to charters.

One of these conversions is Urban Prep’s East Garfield Park campus. Tim King, the founder and CEO of the all-boys’ school, says that he would have preferred to open the East Garfield Park as a charter.

“We do not have the same freedoms as charter schools,” he says. Among the big differences is that all contract school teachers must be certified and principals must have Type 75 credentials. In charters, however, principals do not need Type 75s and some teachers can be non-certified—a distinct advantage when schools look to hire career changers.

While charter and contract schools get the same amount per pupil from the district, schools have more leverage to raise money for charters, King adds. Some foundations only give to charters, and there is some federal funding reserved for charters.

Another contract school that is converting is Rowe Elementary in West Town, run by the Northwestern Settlement House, a social service agency. Lorena Gomez, the school’s communications manager, says Rowe also wanted to open as a charter, but plans to join as part of the Noble Street Charter Network fell through. She says Rowe educators jumped at the chance to convert to a charter.

A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for Nov. 9, 6pm, at the CPS board chambers.

Fall 2010 and 2011 Openings
 
•    Another Noble Street charter in Englewood (Fall 2010)
 
•     Another Chicago International charter in Riverdale (Fall 2010)
 
•     Two LEARN Charter schools, one in South Chicago (Fall 2010) and the other in South Shore (Fall 2011)
 
•    Roseland Preparatory Academy, modeled after Frazier Preparatory Academy, in North Lawndale (Fall 2011)
 
•     Another UNO Charter school (Fall 2011)
 
Contract Schools Converting to Charters
 
•        Academy of Global Citizenship (Garfield Ridge)
•        Catalyst Circle Rock Campus (Austin)
•        Chicago Talent Development High School (West Garfield Park)
•        EPIC Academy High School (South Chicago)
•        Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (Near Southwest Side)
•        Rowe Elementary (West Town)
•        Urban Prep Academy for Young Men (East Garfield Park)
•        Urban Prep Academy for Young Men (South Shore)

Sarah Karp contributed to this report.