Become a Catalyst member

Celebrating 25 years of Catalyst


Join the conversation

We encourage our readers to leave comments and engage in dialogue about our stories. But before you do, please check out our "rules of the road."

Subscribe to by e-mail feeds

Current Issue

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.

Thousands turn out to charter school rally

Charter school supporters filled the UIC Forum on Tuesday at a rally for more funding and more schools.

Despite getting a big funding increase this year and CPS projecting huge future deficits, charter school leaders brought together thousands of their parents and other proponents to rally for more charters and increased funding.

The rally at the UIC Forum took place on the same day teachers were voting to ratify a teachers’ contract that was resolved after a seven-day strike. Leaders said they needed to make sure their issues were not overshadowed by opponents of charter schools, many of whom were vocal during the strike.

Juan Rangel, CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization which runs UNO charter schools, told the crowd it was important to show the muscle of charter school supporters.

“There are forces out there that want to take away your voice and your choice, and we're not going to let them,” Rangel said.

He invited parents to join him in lobbying for a state law that would require charter schools to receive as much funding as neighborhood schools. Currently, the state allows districts to set charter funding at 75 percent to 125 percent of what other schools receive.

In the most recent legislative session, Rangel said, legislation to equalize charter funding fell 15 votes short of passing.

Several parents said they were worried that CPS would look to the charter schools to pay for teacher raises and other things promised in the teacher contract. CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus says the district is still identifying where it will find money for contract costs, but adds that no dollar will come from the classroom.

After a big increase this year, the district says per-pupil funding rates at charter schools are close to, if not on par, with the average district per pupil rate.

A compact the district signed with the Gates Foundation committed it to funding charter schools and neighborhood schools at the same per-pupil rate. Rangel did not say that the district is out of compliance with the compact, but says charters are still in discussions with CPS about potentially restoring a 4 percent cut to charters that occurred several years ago and making sure the funding is equal.

“If CPS is serious (about using) charters as a viable vehicle for improving the system... you are not going to attract high-performing operators tot he district without a funding increase for charters,” Rangel said, such as Rocketship or additional KIPP schools.

 “I am worried, as we begin to grow the deficit more and more, that charters will get lost in the mix, says Sofia Mendez, a parent at UNO's Bartolome de las Casas campus. She thinks CPS should find savings by cutting network or central offices.

Rangel said that expanding charter schools could be a solution for the 123,000 CPS students in underperforming schools. Currently, there are 52,000 students in the district's charters. 

After his speech, Rangel said he would also like the state General Assembly to do away with the charter school cap, and pointed out that in some places, like New Orleans, charters are the norm.

Noble Street Muchin College Prep parent Mary Passi, whose son is a sophomore at the school, said the school provided an alternative to sending her son to either the turnaround Tilden High School or to Catholic school.

“He loves that they help him in all the areas he's weak in... Teachers stay longer hours, we don't have to worry about them going on strike,” Passi said. “He only has 20 kids in his class, so the numbers are better than in a (neighborhood) school, it'd be 32 or 35 (there).”

She says that the school charges parents a $180 supplies fee. She doesn't mind, but says that if charter schools received more funding, that might not be necessary.

Parent Stephanie McGarry, who has sent three of her five children to charters, says that she loves the behavior point system used at Erie Elementary Charter School because parents get a weekly update on how their children are doing. “At Erie, we believe in heart, mind and soul the whole student,” McGarry says.

McGarry says she wishes people didn't view charter schools as taking away from neighborhood schools. Instead of closing under-enrolled neighborhood schools, McGarry thinks the district could attract more students by offering additional programs and lowering class sizes.

But Elsa Gonzalez, a parent at UNO's Hector Garcia campus, said that the public system has failed for too many years.

“We parents will do whatever it takes to find the extra money,” she said, noting a successful parent lobbying effort several years ago to get state legislators to set aside funds for the construction of UNO charter campus buildings.

Said Rangel: “We are going to organize our parents to ensure they have more choices.”


Jeremy Peters wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

It's good that parents are

It's good that parents are rallying behind increased funding for education, but where were those parents for the past four decades as CPS disinvested from their neighborhood schools, or as the city re-routed property tax dollars (through TIF's) to corporations that were then guilted into supporting charter initiatives with token philanthropy (at a fraction of the tax savings!)? I'm glad THOSE parents got resources for THEIR kids, but isn't that the very mindset that got us to this point of decline in public education? I'm sure they were upset when for generations, white kids got their own segregated schools with a lion's share of public funding. Now their just repeating the same myopic and destructive logic under a glossier pyramid scheme. Shame on Rebecca Harris and Catalyst for turning this article into an ad for charters with the "we don't have to worry about our teachers having to go on strike" quote. Of course you don't have to worry about that issue, as charter teachers leave their position after 3-5 years of service. Sorry the rest of us care enough about the rest of you to be willing to forgo a paycheck in order to fight for everyone's rights to a free public education. Charters do nothing more than exacerbate the apathy, selfishness and divisions in our body politic by riding the wave of these short sided school reform policies that are nothing more than budget cuts shrouded in terms like "choice".

Anonymous wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Well said!!!

Jeremy, well said sir! I couldn't agree more!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago
Anonymous wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

One statement in the Contract is one that containes a CTU added

added word; an important word to the CPS mantra of 'College and Career.' That word is Citizenship: College, Career and Citizenship Ready. Thank you CTU for this. Too bad CPS has forgotten another C word-especially with all the testing grades prk-2: Childhood!

northside wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago


He could start by cutting his 236k salary.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

Chinese investors can get a green card by investing in charter schools.
Isn't that interesting?

The wealthy Chinese and the wealthy hedge fund managers have gotten this piece o legislation through our do-nothing Congress. So now the top 10% of Chines, who don't like their ow government or their own government's schools, can get a green card in the US.

That's democracy in the new millennium.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 14 weeks ago

The Strike and Charters

There wasn't much to laugh about during the strike, but one thing stood out as the exception. Charters love to tout the thousands on their waiting lists as proof of their desirability and the desperate need for more. Yet just days (hours?) after the strike began, they were contacting the press to get the word out that charter seats were available to parents who wanted to get their kids back into a classroom immediately. I was very surprised that none of the major media picked that up and ran with it. There are many of us who still wonder about this "waiting list".

Add your comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
go here for more