That's the title of my new story in Education Next, about an experiment to take a successful religious school education model to the public sector. The subtitle of the story sums it up nicely:? ?How the Christian Brothers came to start two charter schools in Chicago.?
Let the walls come tumbling down!
Not so fast.? I have been writing about Catholic schools for a while ? see my 2007 Ed Next story Can Catholic Schools Be Saved?, Fordham's 2008 report, Who Will Save America's Urban Catholic Schools??,?and in Flypaper?-- and had not encountered anything quite like what these education reformers were attempting in the Windy City. These are not Catholic schools -- well, not in the traditional sense.
It started almost ten years ago when Arne Duncan, then the head of Chicago Public Schools, asked the famed, 320-year-old Catholic order, which operates thousands of schools in 80 different countries, including dozens in the U.S., to start a charter school.? Duncan had visited the Brothers' two San Miguel middle schools, which the?order?operated on the city's poor Westside, and said, ?We can do this.??
How they did it is a fascinating tale of grit and determination,?about a committed group of Catholics who gave up their icons, statues, prayers, and catechism, ran a gauntlet of church/state hurdles, partnered with a Baptist congregation in one location and weathered an angry black community in another location ? and are now educating hundreds of Chicago's poorest
It's not a new sci-fi movie ? but it's a longstanding issue for charter schools: finding space ? that's not outer!
Last Tuesday, according to a Los Angeles Daily News story, via Ed Week, the Los Angeles Unified School District made what the DN said was ?an unprecedented? offer:? allowing 81 charter schools to have 25,000 classroom seats on district campuses.
So why do charter advocates call the LAUSD offer illegal?
As it turns out, California was ahead of the?game on the space issue and in 2000 voters passed Proposition 39, which requires districts to share available facilities with charter schools. And districts, not surprisingly, have danced around the law ever since. According to the DN, California charter advocates have sued LAUSD twice
for failing to comply with Proposition 39, which states that district facilities must be shared `fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools.'?
But even though the current proposal ?would be the largest offer ever made by LAUSD, which houses the largest concentration of charter campuses in the nation,? Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, tells the DN that at least 24 of the 81?charters were offered space at multipl?sites, not exactly a convenient deal and, says Wallace, a violation of Prop 39'.
On the East Coast, New York City has different co-location headaches.? A new law passed last May, to increase the state's Race to the Top chances, actually penalizes charters (actually,
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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