Burnett: 27th Ward charters need attendance boundary

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At Tuesday night’s charter school forum at CPS headquarters, Ald.
Walter Burnett Jr. (27th ward) spoke in support of proposals to open
Legal Preparatory Academy and a Chicago International Charter School
campus in his ward. But he had one condition: “People from our ward have to be able to go to our school.” At Tuesday night’s charter school forum at CPS headquarters, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th ward) spoke in support of proposals to open Legal Preparatory Academy and a Chicago International Charter School campus in his ward.

But he had one condition: “People from our ward have to be able to go to our school… I will not allow the school to come to the area unless there is a community component.”

(Elected officials were invited to address the crowd at the beginning of the forum; Burnett was the only one to do so.)

He clarified afterward that he is requesting attendance boundaries at both charters that would ensure a minimum of 30 percent of the spots are reserved for neighborhood students.

“It doesn’t do the kids in my community any good if [the students] can’t come from my ward,” he said, adding that an effort to reach out to students within the ward in the context of a citywide lottery would not be enough to garner his backing. 

Burnett says he hopes the new schools will help bring more middle-class residents into the neighborhood, strengthening its ability to support mixed-income housing in the wake of the Cabrini-Green public housing project’s redevelopment.

State law allows CPS to give some charters attendance boundaries, but it is not a common practice. Sam Finkelstein, president and founder of Legal Prep Charter Academies, says that although community support is important, the school has not yet decided whether to ask the district for a boundary.

“We have talked to Alderman Burnett about marketing the school heavily in his community, attracting students from his community,” Finkelstein says.

Just as at Saturday’s charter school forum, charter proponents formed the majority of the crowd, but numbers were smaller. At least 50 parents from UNO Charter Network showed up, as did smaller contingents from Legal Prep and Noble Street Charter Schools.