11/26 updated links below
Looking at the 57 proposed new Chicago schools for next fall is an interesting inventory of where the energy and interest in new schools creation really stands -- and a telling indication of how much the dispute over Renaissance 2010 has dragged down the process.
Certainly, 57 formal proposals is a respectable number, given the contentiouness surrounding Ren-10 and the fact that there are only 8 school sites that need schools for next fall, a couple of which -- Suder and Donoghue -- are already all but spoken for.
The district received just under 60 letters of intent and concept papers earlier in the year, and most followed through with final proposals that will now be reviewed by the transitional advisory committees and the Board for a fall 2005 opening.
But the list of proposed schools is not as stellar as it might have been, and is as notable for who's not on it as for who is. For example, few if any of the proposals come from well-known educational or cultural organizations that you might have expected. Only a handful (4) come from established charter school organizations looking to replicate or expand their existing efforts- even though CPS upped the reimbursement rate to take care of funding concerns among the charter school community. They are Ramirez (ASPIRA), Perspectives, CICS, and Octavio Paz (UNO).
There's no Chicago Symphony Orchestra school proposal, or Parker or Latin or Northwestern or UIC proposal, or a Cristo Rey or DeLaSalle, or even something from one of the law firms in town. Eden Martin did not proposal to start a school. But then again neither did APTP or Redmoon Theater (or Ross Schwimmer or Joanie Cusack or Billy Corgan or Michael Jordan). The folks at St. Margaret Mary decided against proposing to convert into a charter school. And most of the education reform and advocacy groups are steering clear, which is understandable for them but unfortunate for the kids.
Instead, the majority of proposals come from previously unknown and unaffiliated “mom and pop” groups of teachers, administrators, and community people who want to start performing arts schools, journalism schools, and the like. About a third have some affiliation with the school system. The remainder is made up of roughly 10 proposals come from national education management companies. There are also a couple of proposals for cyber schools combining the Internet and bricks and mortar buildings.
These could be great proposals, or they could be amateurish, but they're not a who's who of school-focused organizations in Chicago. Maybe that's a good thing?
In terms of who proposed what and where, there was a pretty even spread. While the big new Tarkington building got the most proposals - nine - the average number of proposals per building is 5 or 6. Only one school, Suder, received fewer than three proposals. Suder is already in line to get a Montessori proposal, which limits its attractiveness to new school creators. Donaghue has been promised to the folks at NKO for an elementary school, I'm told.
According to the CPS press release, “the proposals run the gamut from schools that focus on environmental issues to performing arts, journalism, world languages, as well as virtual schools conducted through the internet and alternative school serving dropouts.” Of the 55 proposals, 23 are for charter schools, 19 are for contract schools and 13 are for performance schools. (No word on the two Montessori proposals for Suder.)
In any case, the grand total of approvals may number no more than 12, and will likely be a mix of charters, contracts, and CPS small schools. Not every building will have multiple schools - some aren't that big, and the high schools are not up for proposals yet.
Keeping things in context, it is extremely important to note that an additional 19 proposals came in earlier this fall for charter schools, which will be reviewed on a separate track. Many of these are from more well-established groups. Three to five of those will be approved for next year, according to CPS.
Another set of new schools is already in the pipeline for next fall, including three new schools at DuSable, the new schools opening at Little Village, and the new school at Lindblom. Let's not talk about the Naval Academy at Senn.
Last but not least, 16 of the proposals that came in today were not linked to the 8 available school sites in the RFP, and could be approved as well above and beyond the approvals that go through the TAC process. These folks have found other places to start a school.
All in all, it's not a bad showing. Not stellar, but not nearly as bad as it could have been. Kudos to the brave folks who still want to start new schools, who are willing to engage in a highly imperfect but generally laudable attempt to make good use of children's time in the Chicago school system. You gotta give them credit for being in the game. New schools are by no means a sure thing, but then again nothing is.
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