A day later we know a little -- but not much -- more about the big 100-school CPS initiative that was revealed in the Tribune yesterday thanks to some materials that have been shared with me on background. How does it work? Will it work? Here are some of the few things I can tell you:
It's called the PRI -- Program Related Investment -- and its' basically a proposal to set up a new charter school facilities fund to help double the percentage of Chicago kids in charters.
It claims to be a more creative and effective version of existing and previous charter facilities programs because it will involve competitive RFPs. But basically CMOs and CPS will propose "facilities solutions" to improve and expand. The application cover letter is signed by a bunch of CPS, charter, and reform type folks (KIPP, TFA).
I'll check again but I don't see the UofC charter network on there -- I think I remember that they didn't sign onto the original compact in November. Ninety precent of charter operators signed. Sixty percent of Chicago charters are not in CPS buildings.
The initiative is unlike Ren10 in that it's facilities focused rather than focused on creating new schools with facilities as a secondary issue). It's also in some ways more ambitious, hoping to move Chicago past the 10 new charters a year average of the past. Board approval would still be required for the new charters, but there would be the possibility of more new space and less reliance on c0-location (apparently the empty buildings aren't in the right parts of the city).
This is technical, unsexy stuff -- and threatening if you're opposed to charters or critical of their results. But it's not unimportant, either. The Mayor has said repeatedly that he wants more new schools, and to bring in some of the best school networks from outside the city (and the people they would bring with them). Obviously the key here is to attract quality people to start and run these schools, whether they be CPS refugees, charter types, or out of towners.
One of the main things I still don't get is how CPS hopes to monitor and support all these schools -- they're already overwhelmed with the 110 (!?) charters they have -- and about how the new appeals process to the State Commission will interact with the PRI.
Having been through the Ren10 process, I'm also not sure if this new initiative is really big enough to make a dent in overall Chicago education quality. Ren10 sounded impressive but turned out to be lots of small schools, of uneven quality, and was marred by the companion school closing program. So will PRI be bigger or more transformative than Ren10? To be determined.