Monday, May 26, 2014

Sunlight On The Charter Commission

Reaching the end of blogging season here; I'll be decamping for moose country soon, and our group is looking at what form we're going to take in the fall. We'll see.

Meanwhile, we've had a small committee looking at the State Charter School Commission's approval of the two new Concept charters in 2013. We're going over the slim-pickings returned by the Commission in response to a FOIA request. There's some interesting stuff in there. Not much, but some.  As the Commission itself circles the drain, we're trying to preserve a record of some of what it did.

One thing I'm going to post before it escapes my memory is just a small detail in an email sent from Concept to the Commission in response to a Commission meeting or Commission staff + Concept meeting that evidently took place on March 12, 2013.

At some point in the timeline, Concept found a new location at 2050 W. Balmoral, and they started to move on the zoning and other matters. It's a tiny little thing, but here it is:

So for the historical record, Concept informed the Commission that they had a series of meetings with Alderman O'Connor, and that the he was supportive of the zoning change for the facility. I have no reason to doubt that this representation is true; however, I didn't get this sense of it at the time. Jay Rehak, who attended the meeting and reported on it over at Substance at the time, noted this:

After Mr. Ucan, Chris Hill (the property advisor to the project) and Ms. Barnes exited, the community continued to ask incisive questions in search of clarity. Ms. Shingler then read a statement from Alderman Pat O'Connor (who did not attend but had a staff member present) indicating that neither he nor Mayor Emmanuel was in favor of the Concept Charter application.

Obviously, I don' know. It's not my ward, and I wasn't in the series of meetings between the alderman and Concept. But something's not right. Someone misunderstood something, someone changed his mind, or someone's making stuff up.

On a less interesting note, Concept -- in its original proposal narrative-- also informed the Commission of these other things:

It gets confusing--- the above was written when the proposed "Belmont" location was still 4257 W. Drummond, in Ray Suarez's ward. The school was eventually built at 5035 W. North Avenue, in the 37th Ward (Alderman Emma Mitts). Anyway, Cardenas, Suarez, and Joe Moore, were all on board with the application and/or the appeal. I never saw the letter from Joe Moore; it evidently wasn't submitted to the Commission, so I don't know the nature of it. It seems doubtful that Alderman Moore would be writing a letter of support for a Commission override of a CPS decision, but then again, we do live in strange times. The letter was probably a letter of support for the original CPS application.  I wonder if  Joe green lighted its use in the appeal.

It's all so tedious, isn't it?

One more thing. In the transcript of the March 19, 2013, meeting of the Commission, the executive director talks a bit about how overworked the staff (she) is and how it's in the works to have another person on board by April (P. 57) but in the meantime:

I just post this nugget because it's just another example of how public policy is impacted/paid for by the efforts of the Gates Foundation, Eli Broad, and the Walmart heirs. You need an analyst for your charter commission? They'll send you one.

More later. Our analysis of the FOIA response is going to take a while.

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