Catalyst In The New York Times

ScreenHunter_02 Aug. 13 11.55 Kudos to Catalyst Chicago and reporter Sarah Karp for getting this story (Many Chicago Charter Schools Run Deficits, Data Shows) into the New York Times (online nationally and in the Midwest National print edition) via the Chicago News Cooperative.  Right now there are a lot of foundation-funded nonprofit news outlets (ProPublica, Hechinger to name a couple) who have promised to get get broader mainstream exposure for their work through established mainstream outlets, and little old Catalyst jumped to the head of the line with this latest move.  Yes, there's a personal connection -- Catalyst founder Linda Lenz and CNC associate editor Marshall Froker are married.  (Yes, I used to freelance for Catalyst and they sponsored this blog for about a year.) But the piece Karp wrote seems as strong as any of the other CNC education pieces that the Times has run and I think that, over all, it's a good move for CNC to bring in proven talent.


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  • I have talked with Sarah Karp off and on for years now and I knew she was working hard on the issue of the fiscal stability of charter schools. I totally agree with Alexander that Sarah's article is strong.

    Sarah did extensive FOIAing to develop this story, it was very, very hard work. I will be honest here, some of the comments made in the story by charter school officals relating to their fiscal problems and big dependency on gifts would never have been made if Sarah had not done the extremly difficult and serious work she did. She proved what almost no charter schools wanted to admit.

    I also think she was balanced in her story. But I do think there is one aspect to the story that she did not look at and that is public school districts are not under funding charters because they do not know better. They are also not underfunding them so they will fail because in their hearts they are opposed to them. They are underfunding them because one of the objectives of all forms of privitization in education is cost reduction.

    If charters cost the same or more than traditional public schools they will no longer be supported by many conservatives and maybe some Democrats too. This is the case even if some charters do provide a good education to urban students who are relatively disciplined and more often than those in traditional schools come from structured families.

    I think that Sarah's story is a warning to CPS to begin to close down some charters before they implode. Right now CPS is reauthorizing almost every charter that comes up for renewal, it is granting charters to Education Management Organizations that have mixed track records in some cases. All of this needs to stop and relatively fast.

    But here is what I have discovered so far in reading the CPS FY 2011 budget. CPS is projecting an overall enrollment increase for FY 2011. CPS states it is going to have a total enrollment of 410,000 students. This represents a projected increase of about 1,429 students from the enrollment in FY 2010. CPS also states in the budget that the number of CPS students attending charter and contract schools will grow to 44,636 from 36,389 in FY 2010. Given that CPS projects an increase of 8,247 students in charters and contract schools, it can be inferred that CPS is also projecting a 6,818 student enrollment contraction in traditional schools. In FY 2011 students attending charter and contract schools will represent 10.9% of total CPS enrollment.

    So based on what is in the budget I do not see CPS slowing down with its opeining additional charters, regardless of the fiscal problems that may be coming.

    Rod Estvan

  • those interested in the finances of charters might want to read tom toch's edweek commentary -- toch wrote a study about CMOs pointing out that many were not as financially robust as had been hoped, even after a number of years. the report was edited heavily and toch removed his name. read all about it here:

  • Agree this was a well-researched and interesting story. Not sure why it should come as a surprise that Charter Schools are running deficits when they appear to be given less funding than the regular cps schools. One follow-up article that would be interesting would be a more detailed comparison of the finances of charter vs. system school.

  • nyc-based charter proponent whitney tilson had this to say about the story:

    Catalyst Chicago magazine ran a hatchet job of an article on Chicago

  • the local charter network has written a response about the catalyst story and is now going on the offensive, including a scheduled appearance on WBEZ this morning -- did it happen?

    here's the announcement: "Andrew Broy will be responding to Sarah Karp on WBEZ on Monday. Andrew Broy, President of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, will appear on Chicago Public Radio

  • here's the link to the wbez debate over charters

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