A charter school in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side has asked a court to intervene to prevent the Chicago Public Schools from acting to close its doors at the end of this school year.
On Nov. 18, the Chicago Lighthouse Charter School sued the CPS Board of Education, asking a Cook County judge to overrule CPS’ decision to close the school and either order CPS to evaluate the school’s charter renewal application in keeping with the purported terms of the school’s contract with CPS or order CPS outright to renew the school’s charter for five more years.
The lawsuit arrived simultaneously with a unanimous vote by the Chicago Board of Education to close three charter schools when the 2015-16 school year comes to an end next spring. The three schools slated for closure include the Chicago Lighthouse Charter School at 8 W. Root St., as well two other South Side schools - the Shabazz-Sizemore Academy in West Englewood and Amandla Charter High School in Englewood. While the board voted to revoke the charters of the other two schools, the CPS board voted to not renew the Bronzeville Lighthouse school’s charter when it expires as scheduled next spring.
The Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter School was opened in 2006 as an elementary school under a five year charter granted by CPS to Lighthouse Academies, an organization based near Tampa, Fla., which operates charter schools in eight states, including Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas, Florida and New York.
According to the complaint, CPS had approved renewal of the Bronzeville school’s charter in 2011, allowing it to continue educating students under the auspices of CPS through the end of this school year.
The complaint alleged that, under the original contract between Lighthouse and CPS, the board was not to take action on the charter school’s renewal application until after the board has reviewed the school’s submitted annual performance report for the fourth year of the renewed contract.
In its complaint, Lighthouse alleged CPS contacted them on Oct. 26 following the submission of Lighthouse’s renewal application, indicating CPS had received the application and intended to review it and act upon it in March 2016.
However, just two days later, the Board of Education adopted a new policy governing “quality” at Chicago’s charter schools. And on Nov. 4, CPS notified Lighthouse it was among the schools Chicago’s schools CEO, Forrest Claypool, had decided to recommend be closed under the new policy. The board further notified the school it would not be reviewing its renewal application.
The board cited poor academic performance as the reason the Bronzeville Lighthouse and two other schools were being closed.
However, the charter school alleged the board’s decision to not renew the school’s charter violated the contract between the school and CPS, as the school maintained the contract requires the board to review the application, consider “appropriate indicators” and then weight those indicators “in comparison to the previous years of the charter school’s history.”
The school has asked the court to slap an injunction on CPS, preventing it from carrying out its intended actions, and requiring the Chicago school system to abide by the terms of the contract, as the school sees them.
Bronzeville Lighthouse School is represented in the action by the firm of Hauser Izzo LLC, of Flossmoor.