Galewood New Charter School Dissent

November 10, 2011 at 7:07 pm 24 comments

I’m probably late coming in on this but a reader emailed me today about it.  The Galewood community on the west side is experiencing some tension around a possible new charter school.  Some parents are interested in getting a new UNO charter school built, but the teachers’ union is trying to keep them out.

Cheryl, who wrote to me said that the union urged teachers to show up early for the meeting so they were able to secure all nearly all the seats in the room (which was then closed due to capacity.)  The union is well mobilized, I will give them that.  In any case, the parents are now seeking petitions to try to get the land re-zoned as the first step in getting a new charter school in the area.

If you are in the boundaries and are inclined to support a new charter school, contact Cheryl at the information below.  If you are a teacher and are opposed to it, the union would probably welcome your support.

(773) 836-2246 or

**Boundaries are Harlem to Austin Blvd and North Avenue to Grand**

I’m sure this has happened before?  I’m just not aware of it.  Definitely an obstacle for Brizard’s granular approach of filling needs in the neighborhoods.  Or maybe top city officials can just rezone and open charters where they like?  I’m slowly learning more about charters, but still don’t know much.

Union, UNO Clash Over School

by REBECCA VEVEA | Nov 9, 2011

More than 100 people turned out for a community meeting on a new charter school proposal Tuesday night on the city’s far Northwest Side, with public school teachers pressing freshman Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th Ward) to block the plan put forward by one of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s staunch allies.

At the urging of Chicago Teachers Union organizers, teachers and union representatives packed the meeting room to oppose the proposal from the United Neighborhood Organization, the city’s most prominent Latino community group.

UNO wants to buy a parcel in the ward, at 2102 N. Natchez Ave., for a new school that would open next year. But the proposal for the site in the Galewood neighborhood first needs a zoning change, so Sposato called the meeting to gather feedback from constituents.

Angel Rivera, a teacher at Canty Elementary School, asked Sposato to “say adios to UNO,” which largely serves Latino students at its 11 schools across the city.

“Charter schools are the privatization of public education,” said Joe McDermott, a teacher and CTU organizer who was among about 50 people who spoke at the meeting. “They are the Wal-Mart of education.”

UNO’s CEO, Juan Rangel, replied that the teachers’ union members were there “to protect their interests.”

“Clearly, it’s a very strong union community here, but ultimately it should be about the interests of the students and the parents,” Rangel said.

Several parents of UNO students spoke in favor of the proposal, and Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno also showed up in support of UNO, which recently opened a school in his 1st Ward.

“You’re going to be extremely pleased,” Moreno said. “It can only get better when UNO comes in.”

The new school would be built with funds from a $98 million construction grant that state officials approved for UNO in 2009. But the union has sought to stop the proliferation of charter schools, arguing that scarce education dollars should not be diverted from existing city schools.

Rangel contended that UNO backers were among the roughly 50 people denied entry after the meeting started at 7 p.m., because the room was at capacity. Sposato threatened to end the meeting several times, as the debate often grew heated.

Sposato replied “no” when an audience member asked, “Is this a done deal?” And after the meeting, the first-term alderman would not say which way he was inclined to side on the issue.City Hall’s de facto system of deciding zoning issues, aldermen almost always have final say over the fate of real estate projects in their wards.

Some critics of the 36th Ward proposal on Tuesday made reference to Rangel’s strong political ties to Emanuel, who has praised UNO’s efforts. Rangel was an ally of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and served as Emanuel’s campaign co-chairman in the February mayoral race.

Steve Berry, a physical education teacher at Locke Elementary School in the ward, said he was disenchanted with the way Chicago politics work.

“It seems like in Chicago it doesn’t matter what the people want,” Berry said. “This is almost a waste of time.”

But Shelley Huske, a 36th Ward parent who professed neutrality on the UNO plan, bemoaned how the public hearing had devolved into a “referendum on unions.”

“I feel sorry for him because this shouldn’t be a political decision,” Huske said of Sposato. “For me, it’s about my kids and the kids in the neighborhood.”

Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Lindblom Selective Enrollment HS and Academic Center Brizard Meeting – Part 1

24 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Charter Question  |  November 11, 2011 at 12:09 am

    Where to start?!

    The amount of money it would take to build a new school is unreal given the state of our economy at this time. Is there sufficient data showing a charter would better serve the children than the current public schools? where is the data showing charter schools perfoem better than public schools? Or could the existing schools better service the students with the added resources that will now be spent on building a new school. Put the money where the kids are already!

    Ask why people feel there is a need for a charter school in this location? Overcrowding, low scores, lack of resources, an opportunity for choice?

    In higher socioeconomic areas they create more gifted and magnet schools while closing neighborhood and magnet cluster schools. Yet in this area it is not a priority to open these types of schools. Why? So neighborhood individuals ask yourselves is this about unions or about how much you make or pay in taxes.

    Why does the alderman not have a stand on this issue? How many charters, turnarounds, cantract schools, and underenrollment schools have really changed anything by having community or union involvement? It is a done deal, probably in the works for years. Why do people think this is about teachers in a union trying to protect their jobs? Look at the bigger picture, look outside of your neighborhood.

    Why do charter schools have so much public money for start up yet they can selectivly enroll their students while the surrounding schools can not? Then the schools are compared! Resources and enrolment criteria are not the same please do not compare!

  • 2. Mom of 3  |  November 11, 2011 at 8:55 am

    It’s hard for parents to look outside their neighborhoods and at the bigger picture when charters are hyped as being the best thing for their children. When incorrect data is used in the hype to talk up charters, how could parents not want access? Below is an interesting report:

  • 3. klm  |  November 11, 2011 at 9:23 am


    If more CPS neighborhood schools were “doing their jobs”, there wouldn’t be an interest in opening such a school. I don’t think charters are asking for new, custom-built $multi-million facilities –they virtually always use space in existing underutilzed or empty school facilities.

    As for resourses, how much is enough? If the organisational structure of an existing school(s) is broken, more money would just be going into a black hole –the same “bad” results but at a higher price.

    The idea that CTU is looking at this issue as anything other than protecting its quasi-monopoply with CPS teaching jobs is glaringly clear. Unions by definition exist in order to protect their members’ jobs and benefits. I’m not necessarily blaming them –that’s what unions do. However, let’s not for a moment forget that what’s in the best interest of CTU is not necessarily (and frequently IS not) related to what’s in the best interest of our children.

    Charter schools that get public money are required to have “open enrollment” rules like any other public school.

  • 4. Anonymous  |  November 11, 2011 at 11:57 am

    No one would argue that the South Loop Gifted Center wasn’t doing a very good job.

    But now CPS is closing it.

    At the same time it is spending millions and millions for UNO to open more charters. And most charters are not performing well.

    Mayoral control means education services are doled out according who will help Rahm the most, today and in future campaigns.

  • 5. Anonymous  |  November 11, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Do we have a recall mechanism?

  • 6. Mayfair Dad  |  November 11, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    What I don’t know from reading this article:

    1. Is there a need for a new high school in the area? What are the current enrollment/utilization figures for the likely feeder elementary schools? What are the current enrollment/utilization figures for the current high school options, public and parochial? Is there an upward trend of families moving into the area that would sustain a new high school?

    2. What is UNO’s track record running high schools, particularly in neighborhoods with similar demographics? Why is the UNO approach the best approach for this neighborhood? Why would an UNO high school be a better fit than a CPS high school?

    3. If a new high school is truly warranted, will CPS and/or other charter entities have the opportunity to present different proposals for the community to consider? (Rahm, remember that transparency jive you were talking about during the mayoral campaign?)

    If the parents and community want and need a new high school, they will need to get organized against union forces who are intent on making this a labor issue. It shouldn’t be about the teachers union, or City hall clout — ultimately it should be about the kids.

  • 7. junior  |  November 11, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Well put, MD.

    I would also add, as has been stated before, that we need better tools for evaluating charter (and traditional) schools. Charters are supposed to be about innovation and improvement, and since UNO already has many schools around this city, we need to see some accounting and proof that they are working well — not simply test scores, but value-added scoring, as well as larger studies comparing outcomes of those who attend UNO schools vs. those entered the lottery but did not get in. And these data need to be free of manipulation by looking at the kids that transfer out of charters. Perhaps the UofC consortium could look at these issues.

    I am concerned that UNO is becoming a chain school provider, when there are more individualized and unique options for charters that are rejected. Why, for instance, did CPS reject other charter proposals — for example, a Montessori charter — and yet we see the same large charter operators extending their reach? The ties to Rahm raise a red flag there.

    CTU and the charters are both rallying strongly for their own economic interests — that’s expected, and sad — we need more parent voices and empowerment to assure that these decisions are made in the interests of children, not money.

  • 8. bookworm  |  November 11, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    How is it that the STEM school took less than six months to get going and this community can’t have a CPS school instead of a charter. Charters don’t enroll all kids, provide the same level of special ed or keep trouble makers.
    Charters are not the magic answer to our city’s education woes.

  • 9. anonymous  |  November 11, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I think the proposed charter is an elementary school, not a high school as #6 suggested.

  • 10. Mayfair Dad  |  November 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    @ 9: You are correct. I don’t know how the idea that it was a high school got lodged in my head. My bad. I think the main points in my post apply still.

    Here is a link to the Chicago News Cooperative story. I think the comments are interesting, concerned parents and community members having a constructive debate.

  • 11. cpsobsessed  |  November 11, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Does CPS pay to have these charter schools set up? Again, I know nothing about them (or near nothing) but if UNO has funding to come in and build a school, isn’t that basically easier and cheaper for CPS?

    But good point about STEM drawing enthusiasm and seeming to be set off on a great path…. why not add that to the area?

    Maybe it is easier to get a new school going with UNO than it is with CPS (private business versus bureacracy….)

  • 12. anon  |  November 11, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    CPS does not pay to set up charter schools. UNO got a grant of $98 million from the state about 2 or 3 years ago(?) in order to open schools to relieve overcrowding in some areas with high concentration of Hispanic populations. They started by using facilities such as parochial schools that had closed, etc. Juan Rangel and his organization has gotten much more ambitious in the last few years. They recently opened a $15 million dollar soccer school on the Southwest side. They were also trying to get adjacent land to build a high school as well as use the land for commercial and retail development.

    The problem with the charter schools is when they come in and start recruiting students from the neighborhood schools, the neighborhood schools lose some of their funding because of the drop in enrollment. CPS also must provide part of the “per pupil” funding for charter school students.

    I know on the Southwest side, UNO schools have caused enrollment in neighborhood schools to drop. I also know that based on the little data that is available about UNO schools performance, many of these neighborhood schools do just as well or better than UNO schools. UNO schools on the 2010 ISBE report card were on year 2 of Early Academic Warning and were not making AYP (but, then again most schools couldn’t). This being the case, I often wonder if CPS would put the money that is being given to Charters into the neighborhood schools in meaningful early education and intervention programs, would their be a need for charter schools? I don’t understand why if the charters are supposedly doing so much better with just the usual neighborhood kids, why isn’t CPS trying to implement the type of programs that they are using into all schools? Wouldn’t that make better sense so all kids could get the same benefits and advantages that those lucky few are getting at the local charter school?

    I am probably just being paranoid, but the relationship between Emanuel and Rangel makes me a little uneasy. Watching politics and related scandal unfold in our fair city over the years, I hope that’s not a whiff of something rotten in the air!

  • 13. Mamamia  |  November 11, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    It’s always important to acknowledge what we “don’t know” after reading news coverage of an issue. Good for Mayfair Dad for processing that, above.

  • 14. Marketing Mom  |  November 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

    The $98 million has been earmarked for charter school construction. If the Alderman votes this down, it is not like the money will be shifted to existing neighborhood schools. I am a firm believer in not putting good money after bad. CPS has had 100 years to figure it out.

    I understand that UNO is not perfect, no school is or ever will be. But let’s give parents a choice. Most families in south Galewood do not send their children to the neighborhood schools. They go to Mitchell, Waldorf, Hawthorne, St. Giles, Disney, Skinner other charters and a whole host of lottery, SEES and privates. UNO is no different than lottery or SEES in taking families who care about education from the neighborhood. The neighborhood school, Lovett is failing and underutilized because no one wants to send their kids there. Plus its year round schedule is a nail in the coffin for working families. At best, the neighborhood schools are feeder schools for Steinmetz and Prosser H.S. That within itself is another subject.

    The area that UNO is proposing to build is in an area that has been vacant for years and was zoned residential. The project will bring 300 construction jobs and close to 100 permanent jobs to the community, not to mention the current uptick in businesses that surround the areas (Brickyard) with staff and parents coming in and out everyday.

    Alderman Sposato will be making a decision on the zoning next week and he is in support of the petition drive that is underway. Once this is over, many parents will be mobilizing to get a much needed high school option.

  • 15. ChicagoNewbie  |  November 12, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    anon@12 said: “I don’t understand why if the charters are supposedly doing so much better with just the usual neighborhood kids, why isn’t CPS trying to implement the type of programs that they are using into all schools?”

    I wonder the same thing. We don’t know for sure that some charter schools’ success is 100% because it draws self-selecting families. There is no data to back that up. Since CPS and most other public school districts haven’t been able to come up with anything, why not try methods that at least seem to be working? This seems like an obvious option. If politicians, school board members, and unions REALLY put children first things would be much better.

  • 16. cpsobsessed  |  November 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    It does seem so intuitive to try to replicate what the charters do, if CPS thinks they’re all that, right?

    Supposedly part of the longer day initiative is doing just that – matching (or even lengthening) the day that the charters offer. I guess I’d be curious to know how those schools use that time.

    Also, I believe most charters get external funding and perhaps pay teachers less? so dollar for dollar, CPS could not match in every school what charters are doing….

  • 17. Jill  |  November 12, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    To @anon who notes, “CPS does not pay to set up charter schools. UNO got a grant of $98 million from the state about 2 or 3 years ago(?) in order to open schools to relieve overcrowding in some areas with high concentration of Hispanic populations.”

    This “grant” is called your tax dollars. UNO got $98m in 2009 and another $35M just two months ago:

    The power of this money could be used for good. Unfortunately, political cronyism is quality’s kryponite.

  • 18. Angie  |  November 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    17. Jill: “This “grant” is called your tax dollars.”

    So what? The funding for failing CPS schools comes from our tax dollars, too. I would rather see my taxes spent on the school that is successful.

  • 19. anonymous  |  November 12, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Problem: UNO schools are not generally successful. I am not completely familiar with their test scores, but are there any UNO schools that have 90% meeting and 30% exceeding or more? I’d love to be informed of it if they are and I’ll gladly change my stance on my negative view of UNO.

  • 20. Anonymous  |  November 13, 2011 at 8:31 am

    Can anyone name another POLITICAL organization in Chicago that has received $133 million to open schools? (Rangel ran Emanuels’ campaign and was then appointed to the Public Building Commission. He is neither an educator nor an architect.)

    It would be nice to believe that the money to UNO charters is first and foremost about the quality of schools. But

    — CPS refuses to break out any data for charter operators schools’ performance.

    — CPS refuses to break out where the $500 million of our tax dollars are spent EACH YEAR on charter operating costs.

    They won’t tell us what we are getting for our money.

    So why would Quinn and Emanuel give so much to UNO? Unlike others, this ethnic group is not leaving Chicago in large numbers, according to the latest census. And they still need votes to get elected.

  • 21. Anon.  |  November 13, 2011 at 9:09 am

    Here’s a political organization that has received $74 million (!) in TIF dollars — anyone see any strings attached to money?

    “What to do with CME’s TIF?

    Posted: 11 Nov 2011 02:21 PM PST

    Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Terrence Duffy told the Tribune he hasn’t “accepted” or “approved” the TIF subsidy passed by the city in 2009 – and the Grassroots Collaborative has called on Mayor Emanuel to declare it to be surplus and return the money to the schools, libraries and clinics that he’s proposed cutting back and closing.

    More at

  • 22. Parent of 4  |  November 13, 2011 at 9:12 am

    “CNC’s Vevea writes up a tense neighborhood meeting, where occasional CTU-ally Ald. Moreno spoke on behalf of UNO. I’m hearing whispers that UNO may bring the zoning request to the full council regardless of Sposato’s endorsement.
    South Loop, once cutting gifted kindergarten, now cutting its entire gifted center.
    Rahm’s the keynote at UNO’s annual dinner this Monday.”

    From a weekly round-up of top education stories in Chicago, reported by the knowledgeable Seth Lavin, a former CPS teacher.

    Subscribe at

  • 23. Anonymous  |  November 13, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Seems pertinent, and is from a poster at district 299

    “Anonymous said 1 day, 14 hours ago

    I 100% support the goals of the principal merit pay initiative: narrow the achievement gap, lower dropout rates, and improve student test scores. I also happen to believe this initiative is a giant load of crap.

    90% of the time improvement in these types of metrics in CPS is a direct result of knowing how to work the system and massage the data rather than the result of improved pedagogy or more effective leadership and teaching.

    For instance, in order to raise scores at my neighborhood school the most important thing we’ve done is recruit higher quality incoming students. The time, materials, and money involved in marketing and recruitment is a much better and more effective investment than changing what our very strong staff already do.

    We also remove struggling students as quickly as possible after the 20th day to the tune of dozens and dozens per month (though we obviously have far more legal hoops to jump through than charter schools).

    We cram test prep in at every possible moment, narrow our curriculum in tested subject areas, implement truly “creative” attendance policies, eliminate popular elective class offerings in favor of double reading and double math, and focus a disproportionate amount of our attention on two very small student groups – our highest performing students and our students who are “on the bubble” and might be able to squeak by on the tests. The rest of the students are largely irrelevant in terms of a school improvement strategy. And yet, according to CPS, these strategies have worked quite well.

    Charters and the privatization of publicly funded public education have had a profound effect on our neighborhood school and have radically altered our school’s priorities and how it operates. We spend considerable time and money on the types of initiatives mentioned above.

    How disappointing for teachers, parents, and most of all, for students.”

  • 24. Anonymous  |  November 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Shared Sacrifice Begins with a $20 Million-Dollar Corporate Gift

    by Don Washington on 2011/11/07

    “Last week while you weren’t looking Mayor Emanuel decided that he was going to make your 9-11 service worse, put more kids in classrooms, tell homeless people to get a cab to get out of the cold and get rid of so many after school programs that we should be calling that part of his budget the Gang Recruitment Initiative.

    Ah, shared sacrifice has begun.

    To give you a sense of what people like the CME or GE Capital are sacrificing, they are getting a $20 million dollar corporate gift. You see, the Corporate Head Tax is paid primarily by VERY BIG and VERY RICH firms.

    Small businesses are not paying this thing but our immortal, undead, vampiric corporate masters are — or I should say — were paying it.”

    Read more at Mayoral Tutuorial

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