Chicago International Charter School board continues to balk at providing a portion of $35 million in public education dollars to support long under-resourced school serving Black and Brown families
- 3:45 p.m., Tues., Sept. 15: Press availability, CICS educators
Via Zoom: pre-registration required!
- 4:00 p.m., Tues., Sept. 15: CICS board meeting, via Zoom.
CHICAGO, Sept. 14, 2020—The private board of controversial charter operator Chicago International Charter School is expected to vote to close CICS ChicagoQuest High School at Tuesday’s board meeting without consulting families—including the families of freshmen who were recruited into the school this year—who only learned of the move last Friday. Tomorrow, the school community fights back as educators present their concerns at a press conference at 3:45 p.m. before CICS’ virtual board meeting at 4 p.m.
For years, CICS has starved Quest and other schools in its portfolio of desperately needed resources and supports, and is currently hoarding roughly $35 million in public education funds that it has refused to provide for student and classroom resources. At its last board meeting, CICS bosses initially balked at, then approved, ChicagoQuest’s request for an additional $210,000 for staff and foreign language software. After that meeting, the charter operator’s management organization used a portion of those funds to hire an assistant principal, which educators have flagged as a gross mismanagement of funds that were meant to go towards teachers, counselors and a part-time office staff position, and not into an already bloated administration.
This has been a chronic practice by CICS management, which dovetails with a complex system of charter management organizations created and owned by CICS that currently siphon away from student needs upwards of 20 percent of the public education dollars its schools receive from Chicago Public Schools.
The school, whose students are almost 90 percent Black and more than 85 percent low-income, was the brainchild of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Deputy Mayor for Education and Human Services, Sybil Madison.
CICS management has chronically sabotaged and under-resourced Quest and similar schools in its portfolio like Ellison, a South Side school that also serves a largely Black and low-income student population. Charters are not bound by the same rules that govern school closures for district-run schools, which require public notification and public hearings before a radical move like school closure can be undertaken.
Instead, CICS management, like charter operators across the city, has consistently ignored the concerns of its school communities, including the families those schools should serve. Chicago Teachers Union members at Ellison will join their colleagues from Quest to underscore the similarities in their schools’ treatment by management as they, too, fight for commitments to their school.
Quest fought off an attempt at closure in 2016, but CICS management neglect continued to drive down enrollment over the last four years. Quest also occupies valuable property in Old Town that is currently shared with a non-union high school run by the Noble charter network, which itself is interested in expanding its footprint in the building.
The CTU struck at four unionized CICS schools in February of 2019—Quest, Ellision, Wrightwood and Northtown. In the run-up to the strike, the Union challenged management’s lack of transparency, cash hoarding and refusal to equitably distribute the education dollars that CICS receives from the district each year to educate CICS students, who overwhelmingly hail from Black and Latinx working class families.