Chicago Classical Academy charter school mulling options pending CPS application decision
Founding a charter school in Chicago means operating under the assumption that the city's public school system will not approve the application, a founder of Chicago Classical Academy said during a recent interview.
"We are considering a few options at this time," Alice Epstein, founder of Chicago Classical Academy, told Chicago City Wire. "We have currently submitted the application to Chicago Public Schools and will appeal to the Illinois State Board of Education, if denied locally. If that route is not successful, we will consider three options: re-applying next year, opening a location in the suburbs and going private."
It's all part of navigating the existing roadblocks to setting up a charter school in the Windy City, Epstein said.
"Opening a charter school in Chicago is no easy task," she said. "The current political climate is not supportive and there is not startup money available for incubation years. We have built a strong, dedicated team of volunteers who have been devoting an incredible amount of time and energy these past four years to make this happen. We're not a team that takes 'no' for an answer."
Chicago Classical Academy provides a detailed program rooted in the liberal arts that would set it apart from existing Chicago Public Schools, Epstein said.
"Each grade builds on content introduced the previous year," she said. "A detailed outline of the entire program, including content, textbooks and other materials used, is available to parents from the beginning, ensuring that they can participate fully in their child's education."
Earlier this month, Chicago Classical Academy hosted a public hearing that organizers said was crucial to the charter school's success. The charter school's website also encourages people who want to show their support to contact key city aldermen, Ward 3's Pat Dowell, Ward 4's Sophia King and Ward 25's Danny Solis.
The need certainly is here, Epstein said.
"Chicago Classical was born out of a need for better school options for Chicago families, including mine," she said. "Our team zeroed in on the classical model for its focus on deep content knowledge, mastery of the fundamentals, and the importance civics and character play throughout the curriculum, both formally and informally."
Chicago Classical Academy has the support of the Barney Charter School Initiative at Hillsdale College, a conservative college in Michigan that operates without federal funds. That makes the college independent, and its Barney Charter School Initiative has helped open 17 K-12 charter schools in states including Texas, Florida and Indiana.
Chicago Classical Academy does not have the support of Chicago Teachers Union, which has an agreement with Chicago Public Schools to limit how many students can be enrolled in CPS charter schools.
That means Chicago Classical Academy will need strong community support to become a reality, Epstein said.
"At its core, Chicago Classical is a community-driven project that has grown from the passion, energy and dedication of everyday Chicago residents," she said. "There's a lot to be done, but simply voicing your support to your alderman, to the Board of Education, spreading the word and telling your family and neighbors about us, is a small step everyone can take."