With Chicago students back in the classroom, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is free to push ahead with a key component in his effort to reform the city's public education system — the aggressive expansion of charter schools.
Although it was never officially part of negotiations over a new teachers contract, Emanuel's charter school push was a factor in the seven-day strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. It made the city a national flashpoint in the debate over whether privately run but publicly funded charter networks are a better formula for success than struggling inner-city schools.
Chicago Public Schools officials expect about 53,000 of the district's roughly 400,000 students will attend charter schools this year, and the number of charters will increase to more than 100. The city is aiming to add 60 charter schools in the next five years with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is trying to expand charters across the country.