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School Reform Group Pushing For More Charter Schools

CHICAGO (CBS) -- While much of the talk about Chicago schools revolves around a potential teachers strike, one education reform group kicked off the summer this weekend with a push for more charter schools.

WBBM Newsradio's Nancy Harty reports New Schools for Chicago (NSC) has already raised millions of dollars for charter schools. Now it's training parents to be advocates for their children in public schools and charter schools; and to spread the word among neighbors who might be unhappy with the Chicago Public Schools.

Patricia Porter said she went outside the district after her special needs daughter didn't make academic progress for five years.

"We must unite together, and spread the word to our neighbors, friends and family. There is hope with NSC," she said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Nancy Harty reports


Porter was among parents who attended a rally in favor of charter schools and turnaround schools - held at the 63rd Street Beach fieldhouse on the first day of summer vacation.

New Schools Chicago CEO Phyllis Lockett said the graduation rate for CPS is nothing to cheer about. The district announced earlier this month that its five-year graduation rate – based on how many freshmen graduate within five years – was at 60.6 percent this past school year. It was the highest such rate in the 14 years CPS has calculated five-year graduation rates.

"Are we going to celebrate that?" Lockett said.

"That lets them know we're here from the beginning, and the end, and we're going to be here to support them 100 percent," Jacqueline Jones said.

One of the speakers was Godfrey Lawson, who said he's not taking sides in the contract dispute between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union.

"Teachers should be compensated. Longer school days are needed," he said. "Let the powers that be – it's out of my pay grade to say how you make that work – both sides, make it work."

New Schools for Chicago outreach director Chris Butler said he'd rather not spend any more time talking about a possible strike.

"Rather than focus on that, I think the parents and this organization, we're focused on getting great schools in the communities," he said.

New Schools for Chicago has helped open 70 charter schools, and hopes to add 50 more in the next five years.

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