D.205 won’t cooperate with proposed south suburban charter school

2013-09-13T20:41:00Z 2013-09-13T21:10:09Z D.205 won’t cooperate with proposed south suburban charter schoolGregory Tejeda Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 13, 2013 8:41 pm  • 

DOLTON | The Thornton Township High School District 205 board decided not to cooperate with a charter school aiming to locate in the south suburbs.

Urban Prep Academies, which already operates charter schools in Chicago’s Bronzeville, Englewood and Near West Side neighborhoods, had informed District 205 officials of its desire to develop a south suburban charter school.

The School Board earlier this week voted 7-0 to deny the Urban Prep proposal, said School Board President Kenneth Williams. No one on the School Board supported the idea of a competing school that could take state funding away from District 205, he added.

The district’s financial officials have said a competing charter school could cost District 205 about $4 million per year in state education aid, while Urban Prep officials said they believe the district likely would lose about $1.9 million.

Evan Lewis, a chief operating officer for the Urban Prep Academies, said district officials had not notified the organization as of Thursday afternoon of their actions.

He said state law requires them to provide a written notice of the rejection within seven days, and Urban Prep Academies has 30 days from Wednesday’s School Board meeting to decide if it wishes to appeal the decision to the Illinois Charter School Commission.

“It’s a timeline with a quick turnaround,” Lewis said, while adding, “until we receive the notice, we aren’t able to map out our intentions.”

Williams, however, said he expects Urban Prep Academies to appeal and the district will have to defend its actions.

“If they choose to appeal, we will explain ourselves then,” he said.

Urban Prep officials wanted to open a high school that would serve up to 500 students who would be chosen from among south suburban applicants in a random lottery. Officials had hoped to begin classes in the 2014-15 school year.

No school facility had yet been chosen, but officials are negotiating with the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese to see if now-defunct Catholic school buildings could be used.

In other business, the School Board postponed a vote on a budget for the current school year.

The district had posted a proposed budget last month that called for $106.47 million in income, and $106.41 million in expenses.

But Williams said it was discovered in recent weeks the budget proposal did not include about $5 million the district expects to receive from Illinois government to help fund transportation programs for students.

That money is now included in the budget proposal on display at the District 205 offices in South Holland. But state law requires a 30-day period for a budget proposal, and Williams said that 30-day period won’t have passed until later this month.

“We will pass a balanced budget this month,” said Williams, although a date for a special School Board meeting for that to occur has yet to be scheduled.

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