Over Chicago’s objection, Illinois commission moves to approve two charter schools

The staff of the state charter commission has recommended that two charter schools rejected by Chicago have another chance to open their doors to students.

On Tuesday, the Illinois State Charter School Commission will consider those recommendations to approve a new citywide school run by Intrinsic, which wants to replicate its Level 1-plus campus, and to keep open a school by Urban Prep West, whose school was ordered closed.

Related: Here’s how the state charter commission works

On another appeal, the commission’s staff sided with the Chicago district in recommending that Chicago Education Partnership’s proposal for a second campus for its Moving Everest elementary school in Austin be rejected. The fourth school, Kwame Nkrumah, withdrew its appeal. 

Earlier this year, the Chicago school board denied all new charter applications for the next school year, and announced plans to shutter two currently operating charter schools. 

Chicago Public Schools said its decisions not to move forward with any new charters, and to close two schools, was made following an intensive review process. “Allowing these schools to operate would be a disservice to Chicago families and we strongly encourage the Commission to re-evaluate its initial recommendations ahead of the vote,” the district said in a statement.

Four of those schools appealed the decision. Since its establishment in 2011, the state charter commission has had the power to green-light charters rejected by local school districts.

Charter school operators have regarded the state charter commission as a recourse to denials by local school boards.

So far the commission has approved and oversees the operation of nine schools around the state.

The decisions come as the commission faces a murky future.

New Governor J.B. Pritzker has pledged to place a moratorium on charter school expansion. His position on the charter commission is unclear. He earlier told Chalkbeat that good charter schools are “worthy of support” but that adequate funding for district schools should come before “expanding the opportunity for people to start charters.”

Both candidates for Chicago mayor, Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot, have said they’d support freezes on charters.

The commission will help schools whose appeals they approve to obtain both a license and funding. The next step, if the board approves the recommendations, will be for both schools to enter into negotiations to create a charter agreement with the commission.