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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Chicago to join Gates Foundation charter compact

Though they are still in negotiations over the details, Chicago Public Schools officials are set to sign on to a national initiative that encourages stronger cooperation between charter schools and traditional schools, as well as providing equitable district funding for charters.

Twelve cities have already signed such agreements, called District Charter Collaboration Compacts, which are being promoted and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. According to a Gates press release, on Tuesday, CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and New Schools for Chicago President Phyllis Lockett will join the leaders of school districts in Houston and Baltimore in a conference call in which two new compact cities will be announced. Baltimore’s CEO Andrés Alonso has already committed to the compact.

Gates will also announce new grants for cities that have signed onto the compacts.

More than 45,000 students, or about 11 percent of the entire student body, attend CPS’ 89 charter schools, which are public schools run by private organizations. Brizard says the intent of the compact is to try to dissipate some of the animosity that has built up between charter schools and districts.

Controversy over money

For a long time, the charter school community has complained that CPS provides charters, on a per pupil basis, with significantly less money than traditional public schools.

Brizard intends to undo a 4 percent cut in funding to charters, made in 2010. But it is unclear how much more money the compact would yield for charter schools. Brizard says studies show there’s not that big a difference in funding between charter schools and traditional public schools.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools Executive Director Andrew Broy says it depends on how the funding picture is viewed. With instructional costs, the discrepancy isn’t that big.

But charter schools bear the brunt of costs for their facilities, and those costs come out of their per-pupil funding allotment. When building costs are factored in, the gap gets wider, Broy says.

At the same time, charter school opponents point out that charter schools often raise millions in private money from philanthropists and foundations, and that these private funds put charter schools in a better financial position than many traditional neighborhood schools. Also, charter schools do not have unionized teachers and often pay their teachers less.

Brizard says all the decisions on this issue won’t be made by the Tuesday announcement. “The signing of the compact is a beginning of discussion on parity,” he says.  

Outside of money issues, the compact tries to address some other areas that often linger between charter schools and districts.

Each compact is different, but, in other cities, districts and charter schools have agreed to align application processes, curriculum and talent development. 

Staff and supporters of traditional schools often feel that charter schools are held to a different, lower standard than they are. This contention is particularly relevant now in Chicago, where officials this week proposed closing four neighborhood schools. News this week also surfaced that about one-third of charter schools perform worse than the district average.

The compact requires that both the district and charter schools agree that charters should held to the same, transparent standards as traditional schools.   

Brizard noted that the work of creating more accountability for charter schools has already started in Chicago. In the past, the district has shut down less than a handful of charter schools. But at the December 14 board meeting, he expects to ask the board to take action against one or two charter schools.

In the future, he also wants to make sure that charter schools don’t open unless they meet stringent criteria. “We need to vet them better,” he said.


Anonymous wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago


Could you please direct readers to the 9 District Charter Collaboration Compacts, so we can read for ourselves what they contain?

Sarah Karp wrote 3 years 6 weeks ago

charter school compact

Here is a press release from Gates about the compact:
According to it, these nine cities have signed on: Baltimore, Denver, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans, New York City, and Rochester, N.Y.
Here is a link to Denver's compact:

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Opening the ed marketfor edu-preneurs like K-12 Inc and Pearson

The upshot of the Compact is to give considerable taxpayer dollars -- including billions of Title 1 dollars and dollars raised by city bonds -- and other support to charter schools, while preserving the charter operators' right to make purchases entirely independent of the district.

Shifting huge sums of tax dollars to charters will, of course, diminish the amount left for neighborhood schools, which are already suffering. The schools will be less attractive. Declining enrollment is likely.

The Compact also makes it easier for edu-preneurs like Pritzker, Pearlman, Milken and Murdoch to sell real estate services and
computer-based learning systems, etc. to charters -- as they will now have access to really big dollars.

The Compact is the key to dismantling traditional CPS schools and letting our elite make billions in the process.

Smith wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Murdochization of Education

This is just another sad example of giving power and control to "money-eyed" elitists who lack any experience in education like Duncan and his Dept. of Education minions!

Legal wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Rod or someone??? IS this legal

I am not a constitutional can a private party ask a public leader to sign a contract about public funds? Isnt this something that would require a city or state vote? A contract? It would be like Bill Gates he will give the US army money if they agree to train soldiers how to do marshall arts? this cant be legal???? this is a pure example of private peope overstepping their good or bad..this scares me A LOT!!!

Beatrice wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Gates Doctrine

The Gates Compact is nothing more than a bribe to get pin headed administrators to commit institutional suicide. It's a destabilizing tool to create Shock Doctrine conditions that facilitate the wholesale privitization of public schools. So very appropriate that the Chicago School happens to Chicago schools.

Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

re: contract

The only thing CPS faces with this contract with Gates is losing grant funding. So really there is no legal issue here as far as I can see. But based on the existing state charter school law I believe that CPS has been underfunding charter school special education programs for years now.

The solution for charter schools is not some type of unenforceable contract done by Gates with CPS, but rather getting charter schools out of CPS altogether and placed in their own school district that has funding comparable to other low income districts in Illinois. I have stated this publicly many times and not long ago at a conference held at Loyola University Law School on charter schools and special education.

I think the discussion Gates wants to promote between charters and traditional schools is not worth much. It would be worth much more for charters as a group in Chicago to have a higher legal status and be responsible for the academic achievement or lack thereof under the general supervision of ISBE. Most of all I believe parents of students with disabilities attending charter schools should legally be able to litigate against the charter school or a charter district and not as is currently the practice the CPS which feels free to disown charters on these issues when it fits their legal theory.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago


Then Rod, we can assume that this is simply a PR effort to sway public and legislators' opinions?

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Not responsible for academic achievement of their students?

"It would be worth much more for charters as a group in Chicago to have a higher legal status and be responsible for the academic achievement or lack thereof under the general supervision of ISBE. Most of all I believe parents of students with disabilities attending charter schools should legally be able to litigate against the charter school or a charter district and not as is currently the practice the CPS which feels free to disown charters on these issues when it fits their legal theory."

What is their legal status? How is it different than regular public schools for general students and for students with disabilities? Why can't parents of students with disabilities litigate against the charters? Would this also apply to parents whose children were bullied, for example?

Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Answer to two questions

Question 1: I suppose the Gates contract is sort of like the Republican pledge not to raise taxes. If a Republican does vote to raise a tax all Grover Norquist can do is out the elected offical. If CPS violates the contract all the Gates Foundation can do is cut off funding, possibly get some unspent funds back from CPS but that is about it.

Question 2: When a parent of a child with a disability files for due process and attends a charter school by law they file against the school district not the individual charter school or anytype of charter school oversight body. The CPS has contracts with each of the charters, in these contracts from the three I have seen there is a discussion over liability for non-special education litigation.

Each charter must have tort liability insurance, but from the contracts I have seen it is up to CPS to determine the extent it will defend the charters if at all on these issues which would include bullying against non-disabled students. On most non-special education issues schools have immunity from litigation by state law, in order to overcome that immunity the situation has to be pretty bad, so most tort claims against schools by parents fail. Such a bad situation was the example of North Lawndale College Preparatory High School where a three of its charter school students died a few years ago on a retreat where wrongful death litigation could take place. But situations like that are very rare and even then they often result in settlements.

Legally CPS has total responsibility for providing a free appropriate education (FAPE) to students with disabilities in charter schools based on federal law because they are part of the school district. The only way charters can legally be held liable for FAPE is for the charters in Chicago to consititute their own school district.

Currently we have the situation of what I call plausible denial on the part of CPS, where CPS can deny providing positions and funding to charters to meet the FAPE requirements of individual students. CPS can then act as if the charter did something wrong and offer a settlement (often moving the student unfortunately), instead of correcting what is wrong with the charter school or providing staff to the charter school.There are situations where some charters simply have not provided required services written into IEPs and after admission to the charter change the IEPs so they have lower service requirements. Sometimes parents agree to these changes in order to avoid conflicts.

I hope this answers the questions.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Various Questions Raised

On the story:

Even the most successful fundraisers at charter schools don't raise enough money to bridge the gap between what regular public schools and charter schools receive. You can check this out at the Illinois Attorney General's office, where charters, as Illinois non-profits, are required to file annual financial reports.

It is often said that charter schools can get along on less money because they pay their teachers less. The converse is true: charter schools are unable to pay their teachers more BECAUSE they don't have enough money. If you look at charter schools' budgets (which must be filed every year with CPS), you will see that they run very lean operations.

On the comments:

CPS can't enter into agreements with private parties -- it can't enter into any agreements at all. But the Chicago Board of Education, which is the governing body of CPS, can. That's how it enters into contracts to build schools, buy supplies etc. The Board of Ed will approve and sign the Gates Compact.

CPS has, indeed, been underfunding charter school special education. Under Illinois law, charter schools are part of CPS, which is responsible for special ed. That's why parents have to sue CPS -- it has the responsibility to comply with special ed requirements, including funding.

Charters' legal status: charter schools are privately operated, publicly funded, public schools, open to all students in the district. "Charters" are contracts between the school district and the school operator, which must be an Illinois non-profit. They are usually for renewable five-year periods. Charters are responsible for meeting academic targets, graduation rates, and other benchmarks. If they fail, the charter should not be renewed, but CPS and and should exercise oversight during the term of the charter to allow for mid-course corrections.

Finally, it won't do much good to look at other cities' compacts. They are all different, negotiated between the charter schools and school districts in each city. The Chicago compact should be available soon.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago


Thanks for your thoughtful answers. Do you think it is likely that CPS would ever create a separate district for charters?

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Links to charter financial

Links to charter financial reports and to budgets would be appreciated.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

"While the state last week

"While the state last week released detailed performance data for city charter schools for the first time, revealing that many schools from even the most prominent charter networks struggle to close the achievement gap for low-income students, not a single charter school made the schools closing list announced by CPS officials. (Tribune)"

Why are no charters on the list of schools to be closed?

How are charters funded?

Could anyone provide a comparison between the funding for one of the low-performing charters and for one of the schools to be closed of similar size?

Should CPS wait every 5 years to decide if a charter should be closed?

Rod Estvan wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

re: a seperate charter school district

There are a few seperate charter school districts in the US. So it is possible given the number of charter schools in Chicago alone that such a development could happen. I think some Chicago based charters are fiscally fearful of a seperate school district, but others realize that it could bring both more autonomy and accountability.

Here is an example of why some charters are fearful of a seperate school district. For the last two school years the State of Illinois as been well behind in its payments to CPS for General State Aid, special education, busing, etc. Because CPS is so large it has been able to absorb these delays and get tution payments to charter schools and pay the bills. A stand alone charter district would probably have to use tax anticipation notes to pay bills until the payments come in. There could be complex disagreements between any charter district and CPS over property tax increases which would effect both school districts. A charter district might not want the Mayor to pick its board members, it might want a different structure all together. All of those complex issues would have to be addressed in any legislation authorizing a seperate charter school district and that would not be easy.

But we do need to recognize that if Chicago charter schools formed a school district it would be either the second or third largest district in the state. It would also be very unique, it would have to fiscally audit charter school networks very carefully to make sure none were imploding. Ultimately any decision to break CPS up into two seperate school districts would have to be made by the Illinois General Assembly.

Rod Estvan

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Separate District for Charters?

The structure of charters is set by state law. CPS could not make the decision to put all Chicago charters in a separate school district. But charters are not all the same. Putting them all in one "district" implies the need for a centralized administration, which is counter to the idea that charters try different programs and use what works. If a school is chartered directly by the state, by the State Board of Education or, soon, by the newly created Illinois Charter School Commission, that school is it's own "Local Education Agency" or district. But state chartering happens only on appeal, after the charter has been denied by the local district, and right now there are only two state-chartered schools, none in Chicago.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Charter Financial Reports and Budgets

Some AG-990-IL forms are available from the Illinois Attorney General's site, through the charitable organizations database, But the AG is really behind on scanning the forms that have been submitted, and if they are not scanned, you have to file a Freedom of Information Request to get them. Both budgets and annual audited financial reports are submitted to CPS, but they are not online. FOI requests are probably necessary there, too. Charter schools are also subject to FOI, but many of them will just send you what you want without a formal request.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Waiting Five Years to Close a Charter

CPS waits decades to close some underperforming regular district schools. Having the opportunity to close a charter, easily, every five years, is an improvement.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

How Charters Are Funded

The funding scheme for charters is so complicated it would take hours to explain. And then it's difficult to compare to regular district schools, because regular district schools don't get a budget to spend. They are allocated positions, and the people they hire are paid by seniority -- the principal doesn't have to say, "Gee, can I afford this experienced teacher?"

I don't want to appear to be evasive, so I will try to give an idea of the funding differences. The CPS "Operating Expense Per Pupil" for the 2009-10 school year, the last year for which figures are available, was $13,078. That's the total the district received for regular K-12 education divided by the average daily attendance. It includes the cost of the central bureaucracy (which does provide a number of essential services), but does not include any building costs -- paying off the bonds issued to build and renovate schools comes out of a different pot of money. I don't know what CPS spends per pupil on that.

Charter schools received $5,873 per pupil for elementary students, $7,341 for high school students. "Small" schools (under 450 for elementary schools, 600 for high schools) received an additional $300 per pupil. Schools not located in CPS facilities received an additional $425 per pupil. But they need to pay their own facilities costs -- an average of about $1,000 per pupil for schools in CPS facilities and about $2,000 per pupil for schools in other facilities.

That's not all the funds charters receive. In addition to the base, above, they are supposed to receive a proportionate share of federal grant funds and of state money that can be tied to particular pupils (poverty funds, for example). But the accounting is not transparent and it is not likely that charters are getting everything they are supposed to. This averaged out to about $1,000 per pupil in 2009-10.

Finally, there is special education funding. CPS computes the number of special ed teachers each school is entitled to based on its students' IEPs, and reimburses charters up to $65,000 per teacher -- that's to cover both salary and benefits. The average CPS special ed teacher is paid about $95,000, not including benefits. Until now, CPS has sent its own social workers, speech therapists, and other clinicians to charter schools, often on a part-time basis, based on calculated need. But beginning next year, every new and renewed charter will require charter schools to hire their own clinicians -- but it's difficult to hire a part time social worker, and it may be impossible under standard health insurance policies to provide a part time social worker access to medical coverage.

The Gates compact may have an effect on some of these payments. Stay tuned.

Average Special Ed Teacher wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Salary oops

The average special education teacher in CPS does not earn $95,000 before calculating benefits. The highest possible salary in CPS for a special education teacher with a PhD and the maximum allowable years counted towards service is $88,680.

Perhaps the amount in the above post is supposed to be $65,000, but even that is likely quite high given the recent and large influx of young teachers in the system.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Charter funding

There would be plenty of money to pay Charter school teachers, if the management organizations and charter holders didn't constantly skim money off the top. There are so many meaningless, money eating positions at our management company. We have wave after wave of new initiatives (e.g. money sink holes). The money is literally thrown away. But I think that is a problem in CPS too. Wasteful, unnecessary spending.

The business model (charter schools) was supposed to cut out all that wasteful spending. Unfortunately the business model is simply better at hiding all that wasteful spending. :-(

seen the light wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Teachers were fooled into voting for the Obama

I know this is old news but why did CTU endorse Obama? Did they do any homework? Look at the layers working against us!

Our Secretary of Education is Arne Duncan-who I once met and repused to shake any teachers hands ...and had more make up for CPS meeting than Hollywood Actress. A union busting never taught outside of tutoring "educator" . No explanation nedeed

Our deputy Secratry of education who HAS never worked in Education


Rahm Emanuel who was I assume hand picked by Obama to be Chicago's mayor (obvioulsy this man hates teachers)

The whole hand picked "board".I dont think one of them ever worked in education?

I wont blame Brizzard at this point..I assume he just wants to keep his job!

Then the new "breed" of princicpals who are killing their teachers with insane requirements. And soon will be emboldened with the new SB7 laws! (again not really their fault they are just trying to maintain their jobs)

How and WHY did CTU endorse Obama????

Dont forget we have Bill Gates and the tea party doing their part too!!

maybe we should have voted for Mc Cain?????????

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Not really

Waiting 5 years to close a low-performing school is not really a serious improvement.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

How much

How much has the Gates Foundation given to Chicago charters, on an annual basis?
How is it distributed? Are there restrictions on how the carters spend Gates' money?

Other groups and wealthy individuals contribute to Chicago charters. Where is that reported? How is it distributed? Does a charter campuses' performance affect the amount of donations it receives?

Why are there no rules against nepotism in hiring at charters?

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

Power Philanthropy: 'Influence Peddling Writ Large'

For a timely analysis of the phenomenon of wealthy elite taking charge of public school districts.

Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

CPS Special Ed Teacher Pay

That number came from CPS.

alexander wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

uniform application form, website, and deadline

one of the things that other districts involved in the compact have been able to do is to take all the different application forms, dates, and sites, and bring them all together -- so that parents can spend more time comparing schools and less time trying to get copies of forms.

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