Charter schools in Chicago expel students more frequently than other public schools in the district, according to new data released Tuesday by Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials.
Privately-run charters in Chicago, which serve about 50,000 total students, had 307 expulsions last school year. During the same year, just 182 students were expelled from district-run public schools, which have a total enrollment of more than 353,000.
Charters have expelled 51 students so far this school year. That's nearly three times the number of kids who have been kicked out of district-run public schools this academic year.
Tuesday was the first time the district provided expulsion numbers for charters as well as suspension data for each individual school.
According to the data, school disciplinary actions are disproportionately impacting African-American students, who make up about 41 percent of the district's total enrollment. Of all the students suspended last school year, 75 percent were African-American.
"Until we called out the numbers, until we had deep conversations with people in schools about the racial disparity, I don't think people understood it as such," CPS CEO Byrd-Bennett told the Chicago Tribune, referring to the high number of suspensions handed to African-American students. "There's something going on here, and we need to address it."
The district adjusted its discipline policy in 2012, shifting away from zero-tolerance policies and actions that can take students out of the classroom.
Earlier this month, Byrd-Bennett said the district will increase its efforts to further reduce suspensions and expulsions, including installing more restorative justice programs in schools. During that announcement, Byrd-Bennett also said the district is providing charter operators with some of the same “alternatives to expulsion” intervention programs that have helped reduce expulsions in district-run schools.
In a statement released Wednesday, Byrd-Bennett said the district is also launching an outreach plan designed to "engage parents, stakeholders and community partners to build on progress the district has made to decrease suspensions."
Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, added that the charter community is "committed to creating school environments that are conducive to learning while also working diligently to reduce suspensions and expulsions.”
“We all have an obligation to do what we can to keep students in school," he said. "We look forward to working with CPS to identify solutions that ensure all students, no matter what kind of school they choose, are getting rich educational experiences and remain connected to their school communities."