The Chicago Board of Education has unanimously approved the creation of two new charter schools in the city.
The new schools from the KIPP and Noble charter networks came under the recommendation of Chicago Public Schools, who suggested the rejection of seven others. More than 50 speakers came to the board meeting to voice their opinions before the vote, many of them wearing "I heart KIPP" shirts or crying as they talked about previous charter school experiences their children have had.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union and CPS leaders could not agree on the issue. Union vice president Jesse Sharkey felt the charter schools were "politically-connected" and that it would be a mistake to approve their opening. At the same time, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool argued that there was a "considerable community demand for high-quality options" that the opening of charter schools would fill.
Claypool said that 50% of families in the community around KIPP send their children to schools outside the boundaries. Around Noble, that percentage increases to 66%, writes Kelly Bauer for DNAInfo.
However, critics argue that the expansion of charter school options will only lead to even more students leaving the public school system. If that happens, budget cuts would be made to already underfunded schools if CPS' current per-pupil funding model is used.
A number of students reportedly feel the same way, as many staged protests and walkouts in a push for increased funding for public schools while at the same time putting down charter schools.
"I fear that our public schools don't have enough resources, and they deserve more funds to grow current programs," said Stephanie DeLeon, a senior at Kelly High School.
Charter school supporters stood in front of the board to discuss the benefits that charters bring to communities, such as offering a high-quality education to students who will not have to travel a long way to receive it. They added that parents should be allowed to choose where their children go to school.
"By eliminating the expansion of charters, you are taking away our freedom of choice," said Stephanie Bassett, a mom of three children who attend charter schools.
Opponents and supporters stood outside the meeting and faced off in a number of chants. Students also skipped school to protest outside, pushing for increased funding for public schools and chanting "Save our schools" and "Save our teachers."
After the meeting, they staged a "study-in," by sitting on the sidewalk and doing homework.