Meet The "PRI"

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.


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  • Really, who wants to work in a charter school as a teacher. Very low pay, long hours and the expectation they want you out after five or more years, so they don't have to give you a raise. It seems that charter administrators are generally of bad quality. Besides the handful of charter schools, who in their right mind would want to work in these "drill and kill" factories?

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I really love my charter school.

    I like the test prep. My students need to be able to pass these tests if they want to be successful in college or the work force. Besides, the test prep curriculum makes my job so much easier. What I teach each day is already laid out for me. I hardly have to plan at all.

    And I am sooooo glad we can deal with our problem children without all the restrictions of CPS. I feel bad that some disruptive kids are kicked out or they leave because they just can't handle it at my school but when they're gone everyone else in the school benefits.

    I like working in my charter school. I don't mind the long hours, lower pay, and relatively short-term nature of the job. It's a really nice way for me to give something to those poor black and Latino children before I go into investment banking our law school or become a full time mom.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    "I like working in my charter school. I don't mind the long hours, lower pay, and relatively short-term nature of the job. It's a really nice way for me to give something to those poor black and Latino children before I go into investment banking our law school or become a full time mom."

    You are being sarcastic, right? And who said passing a standardized test makes you successful in the work force?

  • I work in a charter school and am an administrator. I hope I am not "bad quality." The pay is actually a bit higher than in CPS and we truly desire to have our teachers at the school for the whole of their career. In my ideal world, turnover from year to year should be minimal. However, there are different stories for different charters. Not all charters are the same, just like not all traditional schools are the same. A little nuance in our posts would go a long way.

  • some additional details from WBEZ:

    100 new Chicago schools in 5 years...again @WBEZeducation @lindalutton

    also -- UofC did sign onto the compact slightly after the rest of the crew.

    also also -- does this have to go before the board for approval, or is it already approved?

  • some more clarification and background for anyone who cares:

    PRI is a generic term -- this is chicago's but it's not specific to chicago (or to charters).

    they can be low cost loans, credit enhancements or risk sharing structures in support of any variety of reforms charter or otherwise.

    here's a gates foundation explainer on the PRI approach:

    here's a recent blog post from lucy bernholz about PRIs and other newish ideas in "impact" philanthropy: A hybrid foundation

  • Rahm is an ass! Our LSC had to approve a budget that spends $300,000 on recess-RECESS, plus give-up our textbook and supply money as well to do it!

  • From Mike Klonsky’s Small Talk Blog

    “Remember Rahm had promised that the city would be "open for business." That the gathering of the NATO war machine would put Chicago on the world map, make it more of a target destination for tourists and shake loose from our "Al Capone" image. The mayor even went so far as to proclaim NATO as a peace group, and the Summit as the scene of the "Chicago Accords" which would put an end to war as we know it.

    But Rahm's Potemkin Village has turned into Nightmare on State Street. Here's what the thousands of foreign press and dignitaries will see when they step out of their limos after a ride from O'hare to downtown that may remind war reporter of the ride down Baghdad Airport Road. Espressways from the airport to the loop are shut down. The Museums are all closed. South Loop stores are closed, windows boarded up. Thousands who work in the city are being told to stay home. One can only imagine the lost revenue to the city during Rahm's NATO Fiasco.”

  • Charters growing in CPS – up to 25% of schools? « CPS Obsessed

  • It's unlikely 60 charters from the better organizations can'be opened in the next five years. Brizard has been told that the good organizations won't try to do that rapid of growth.
    It may be possible that at the end of five years 60 new charters have been opened and/or planned.
    Figure two years to plan a school, with a principal hired from outside being in the charter system a year minimum before the new school opens.

    My primary takeaway from the announcement is that Rahm wants to close 100 neighborhood schools. To me that indicates he sees no possibility of appeasing CTU or their close allies.

    What's a "contract school" mentioned in the trim article?

  • In reply to Donn:

    I agree with Donn. The best of the charter operators are not able to and are unwilling to expand fast enough to reach 60 more schools in five years.

    Even the best charter operators in Chicago are hit or miss. This policy is less about improving education outcomes and opening charters than a concerted effort to break the Chicago Teachers Union which has shown it is a fierce adversary and a unifying advocate among teachers, students, parents, and communities for publicly funded public education for all.

    The timing of this announcement is also strategic. Just this week the Tribune found that the general public prefers the CTU vision for public schools by a 2 to 1 margin over the mayor's and that teachers have very strong support among Chicagoans.

  • Great question, Donn. I, too, would like to know more about contract schools. The CPS web site says "Contract schools are public schools open to all CPS students. These schools are operated by private entities under contract with CPS to provide an additional education option for students." There are only four contract schools listed, including ChiArts. So what is the difference between those and charters? Hard to tell.
    The truth is, there are many more contract schools than the four listed. Most of the contract schools serve the "underclass" of students and are attached to the alternative school network. These schools serve the drop out, adjudicated, emotionally and behaviorally disturbed, and expelled students. I actually got interested in finding out more about these schools when a student was killed by another student a few months ago as they entered the school. It was a contract school called "Infinity". Since then I have found others including Banner, Milburn, Prologue, Pathways, and possibly Peace and Education. I also noticed that a new contract was approved at the board meeting last month for a group called "Camelot" to open another school for drop outs and adjudicated youth. Most, if not all, of these schools are for-profit entities.
    It is almost impossible to get any information about these schools as they are not even metioned on most CPS public sites. As a tax-payer who would like to see much more financial and academic transparency from CPS, I would be very interested in knowing more about these schools, how much they cost, and what their performance/success is. If anyone knows where to find this information, please speak up.

  • LiveStream Coverage of NATO protests

  • Anyone participate in Brizard's last two tele-town halls? I tuned in to both to see if anything new would be said. Hate to report that it was the same old, same old. They did change the format from the first one to the second. In the first, callers were allowed to ask questions themselves, although they were then cut off and not allowed to respond or follow up. In the next one, they didn't even let teachers ask questions themselves, but had a moderator reading questions. Want to direct you own agenda much, CPS? Anyway, the second town hall was a total repeat of the sound bites from the first one. So if you've already heard it all, don't waste your time on the call scheduled for May 22nd.

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