Council Votes to Turn Chicago Elementary School into Charter

Parents rally behind revolutionary plan to turn a failing Chicago elementary school into a charter school.

Parents on the local school council at a low-performing public school on Chicago’s Far South Side have voted for a charter school takeover, writes Linda Lutton at

All the parent and community members on the LSC voted in favor of making Smith a charter school—which is a privately run, publicly funded school. Such schools usually have no teachers union, and no big Chicago Public Schools bureaucracy.

The council’s two teacher representatives and the principal voted no.

Parent Karla Armour, a Wendell Smith graduate herself, was just named to the council Tuesday night. She said casting her vote felt meaningful.

Ironically, the council will cease to exist if a charter is brought in to run the school. That doesn’t bother Armour though, whose kid is in a kindergarten class of 45.

Armour said:

“Being part of a council—that’s not important. What’s important is that I’ll be part of a much better school environment. Right now I see the defeat in my five-year-old’s eyes when he comes home and his teachers couldn’t really get to him.”

Phyllis Locket, director of New Schools for Chicago, said that this vote is a turning point, she says.

Locket said:

“Usually when this has happened, it’s been the Chicago Public Schools making the decision and sometimes forcing the decision on the community. To see the community saying they want to do this, I think is pretty breakthrough.”

Along with their demand for a charter school, Wendell Smith parents want a guarantee that their children will be allowed to continue there. Charters are open to kids from all over the city. Locket says a never-used provision of a state law could allow kids to stay.

During his campaign for mayor, Rahm Emanuel supported the notion of a so-called “parent trigger”—where parents could vote to shut down their school, or “charterize” it.

Chicago Public Schools isn’t saying yet how it will respond to the LSC vote at Wendell Smith.

But just Tuesday, speaking to civic leaders, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said he wants parents to demand more from their schools. He also talked about charter schools. He said about a third of them are great, a third are middle of the road, and a third are “lousy.”

Wendell Smith Elementary School has been on probation for seven years in a row, writes Fox Chicago news.

There’s still a long way to go. Parents plan to hold a rally on Wednesday and start circulating a petition supporting the charter school plan. Then, the Local School Council will take that petition to the Chicago School Board this fall.

Wendell Smith Principal Johnny Banks says Tuesday night’s vote really doesn’t do anything. It’s the Board of Education that makes decisions about charter schools, not an LSC.


  1. Doug

    The parents will find out that the charter makes no difference whatsoever. The problem is not in the teachers, the building, the principal the curriculum or the pedagogy. The problem is in the children and families due to poverty.

    The only thing that works is to make the poor not poor.

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September 1st, 2011

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