CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that protects the original intention of the charter school law for Chicago: giving at-risk youth more education options. House Bill 5562, sponsored by Chicago legislators Rep. Lou Jones and Sen. Jacqueline Collins, allows the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to give priority in charter school enrollment to students living in the community where the charter school is located.
“Charter schools were created in Chicago to give the City’s parents more alternatives in finding a school that best meets their children’s learning needs. Charter schools, like regular public schools, should be a part of their communities, serving the children who live there. The bill I’m signing today will make sure that’s the case – especially in neighborhoods where kids are facing extra challenges to growing up and finishing school,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
The new law allows CPS to establish attendance boundaries in as many as one-third of the charter schools in the City in order to better serve at-risk students or to help relieve overcrowding in nearby CPS schools. Students living within the boundaries will be given preference in the charter school enrollment process.
The change comes at a time when CPS is planning to open 100 new schools – one-third of which will be charter schools – by 2010 to replace under-enrolled and under-performing schools.
“This measure is a boost to our Renaissance 2010 plan,”' said Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. “It allows us to create the unique learning opportunities that every child in every neighborhood deserves.”
The sponsors initiated HB 5562 when they observed that enrollment slots for charter schools in struggling neighborhoods were being filled by students from outside the community who didn’t face the same challenges and obstacles. The charter school law required the schools to accept students on a first-come, first-serve basis; however when more applications were received than slots were available, a blind lottery process was used, so children from outside the school’s neighborhood had the same chances of gaining admittance as children from within the neighborhood.
“This law will help ensure that charter schools in Chicago are serving the needs of all students,” said Senator Collins. “Having the ability to designate attendance boundaries will be a great tool in ensuring that charter schools are serving the young people they were designed to reach – Chicago’s low-income and at-risk students.”
“I would like to thank Governor Blagojevich for realizing the need for this legislation,” said Representative Jones. “House Bill 5562 will help to serve underprivileged children that live in public housing complexes. These children face many difficulties in life because they are not offered the same opportunities as their counterparts. By giving priority in charter school enrollment to students that live in the community where the charter school is located, we are providing these children a good chance to succeed in life.”
Right now, more than 5,200 children are on waiting lists to gain admittance to a City charter school. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2005.