CSDU denounces secret deal by Marilyn Stewart that allowed massive charter expansion in Chicago, Illinois

The Coalition for a Strong Democratic Union, a caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union, on June 9, 2009 issued a strong denunciation of a deal agreed to by CTU President Marilyn Stewart that allows the greatest expansion of charter schools in both Chicago and Illinois in the state's history.

Under legislation which the Chicago Teachers Union failed to oppose, the expansion of the Chicago International Charter School (CICS) through the fiction of multiple "campuses" will be allowed to continue. Above, the CICS "Prairie campus" at 11530 S. Prairie (in the old St. Anthony Catholic school) is dwarfed by the surrounding parochial iconography. Most of the "campuses" of CICS are in former Catholic schools, which are salvaged by the Chicago public schools via the massive expansion of the charter school program. Legislation promoting charter schools in Chicago has failed to require the removal of religious symbolism from any of the more than four dozen Chicago charter schools currently inside parochial school buildings, leading many to suggest that the charter schools are attempting to market themselves as similar to the Catholic schools where they currently operate. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.In a press release entitled "CTU PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES HER DEAL FOR 40 NEW CHARTER SCHOOLS", the CSDU reported as follows: "The president of the Chicago Teachers Union has announced a new expansion of charter schools to which she acquiesced in exchange for some oversight being placed on the schools and their recognition under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act. The new legislation approves 40 new regular charter schools for Chicago over the next four years -- and five specialty charters for high school drop-out students."

The 40 new charters are a greater number than Chicago received when charter schools were begun.

'Campus' replication of charter schools allowed for existing schools

"These new regular charters are restricted to one campus each," CSDU continued, "while the specialty schools will each have the ability to open 15 sites under each charter, or 75 more schools. These added to the 40 regular new charters equals a grand total of 115 more charters over the next four years. While the 40 schools will not be allowed to expand, all current charters are still free to replicate as they wish."

The "replication" of charter schools in Chicago has meant that once a charter is granted, a "school" has been allowed to have an unlimited number of "campuses."

As a result, by this year, Chicago International Charter School (CICS) has more than ten "campuses" across the city, from as far north as Peterson and Pulaski (the "Chicago International Northtown Campus", in the old Good Counsel High School building) to 115th St. (the CICS "Prairie Campus" at 115th St. and S. Prairie Ave.). The Chicago Board of Education's directory for the 2008-2009 school year lists 11 CICS elementary "campuses" and three high school "campuses."

Other Chicago charter "schools" with multiple "campuses" are:

-- Aspira, with one elementary campus and two high school campuses (the CPS directory is inaccurate regarding the Aspira charter school).

-- Noble Street Charter Schools, with seven high school "campuses" this school year (according to the CPS Directory).

-- Perspectives Charter Schools, with four high school "campuses" and two elementary "campuses" this school year (according to the CPS Directory).

-- UNO Charter Schools, with one high school "campus" and seven elementary "campuses" this school year (according to the CPS Directory).

-- University of Chicago Charter Schools, with one high school "campus" and six elementary "campuses" this school year (according to the CPS Directory).

-- North Lawndale Charter Schools, with two high school "campuses" this school year (according to the CPS Directory).

Other Chicago charter schools, including Urban Prep (an all-boys high school) have been approved for additional "campuses" in the coming years. There are still a handful of charter schools in Chicago that continue to operate on one "campus" and somewhat according to the original charter school model. That model, before its corporate expansion, envisioned a small group of teachers getting together with parents and others to form an independent public school. The majority of students now attending Chicago charter schools are not in these types of schools.

"The new charters, along with the continued multiplication of current charter sub-sites, are expected to lead to thousands more of CTU job losses," CSDU continued. "There has been no action barring the passage of subsequent legislation that would provide for more charter expansion beyond the year 2013, the result of which would be further job losses."

Not all of the provisions of the new legislation will hurt the union, CSDU pointed out. "The agreement was negotiated during the final hours of the 2009 legislative session, which places all charter and contract schools under the provisions of the IELRA [Illinois Education Labor Relations Act]. The action recognizes all charter and contract employees as public employees and paves the way for union organizing of these schools. SB 612 will institute financial and educational accountability requirements for charter schools," CSDU continued.

Under the current law, one of the charter schools in Chicago was able to successfully argue that it was not a "public" school for purposes of unionization. At the June 3 meeting of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates, CTU President Marilyn Stewart reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had recognized CICS as a "private employer" for purposes of union organizing. This means that organizing teachers at three CICS "campuses" (heralded at a major media event at the April CTU House of Delegates meeting) will have to be subjected to a "secret ballot" vote, instead of the "card check" that had taken place. CICS, like all of the other Chicago charter schools, has been explicitly anti-union. The CSDU press release goes on to provide its readers with information from the Illinois Federation of Teachers Website on the legislation.

"SB 1984 specifies that:

"...all Illinois public charter schools and contract schools in the city of Chicago fall under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. (IELRA), including the instructional employees of charter schools, contract schools and contract turnaround schools that are operated by subcontractors; and

"...charter and contract school employees can use the card check process for union representation.

SB 612 contains the following changes to the charter school law:

"...The terms “contract school” and “contract turnaround school” are now clearly defined and capped at thirty (30) contract schools and five (5) contract turnaround schools in Chicago. Contract and turnaround schools are limited to a single campus.

"...Reporting of school data will be required by campus rather than by charter to give an accurate picture of student achievement statewide.

"...Three-year phase-in to reach a 75 percent certification level of charter school teachers for current and new charter schools, up from the current 50 percent of certified teachers.

Forty (40) additional charters in Chicago, with new charters limited to single campus, to end the creation of multiple campuses by a charter holder.

"...Fifteen (15) additional single-campus charters for the now-combined suburban/downstate region, bringing the number of charters outside the city of Chicago to 45.

"...Five (5) new charters in Chicago specifically for high school dropouts, with the ability to open up to 15 sites for each charter, allowing a maximum of 165 students per site and a total enrollment of 1,875 per charter.

"...Allowing the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) 60 days to review charter application up from the current 14 days for the first year the new law is in effect

Requires charters to provide financial data annually by Dec. 1.

"...Creates accountability provisions for any charter that fails to achieve goals set in its original charter; provisions include the mandatory charter revocation for any charter school that fails to meet its own standards of achievement within a required timeline.

"...Creates a task force with representation from CTU, IFT and IEA to study feasibility of an independent authorizer of charters (from IFT Website)..."

CTU providing no information to its members

Marilyn Stewart, President of the Chicago Teachers Union, had provided no information to the union's members as of June 8, 2009, a week after the legislation had passed. The CTU Website had nothing about the massive expansion of Chicago and Illinois charter schools.

Two of the other three caucuses within the Chicago Teachers Union have strongly opposed the continued expansion of Chicago charter and contract schools.

CORE (the "Caucus Of Rank and file Educators") mobilized its members since December 2008 to oppose Chicago's "Renaissance 2010" and the actions of the "Office of New Schools."

The ProActive Chicago Teachers and other school workers (PACT) caucus headed by former CTU President Deborah Lynch distributed literature at the union's last meeting of the 2008-2009 school year noting how many union jobs (and CTU members) Marilyn Stewart has given up since first taking office in August 2004.

The Independent Caucus which announced its rebirth at the CTU's June 3 meeting has not taken a clear position on the expansion of Illinois and Chicago charter schools.


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