City Hall

Chicago City Hall (Tribune illustration)

A group of aldermen are calling for a moratorium on new charter schools starting in 2014 in Chicago, arguing it doesn't make sense to add new charter seats at a time the city is considering closing public schools that don't have enough students.

"It's just common sense," said Ald. Matt O'Shea, one of the resolution's sponsors. "Why would you add more seats when we reportedly have 100,000 excess seats in Chicago Public Schools?"

O'Shea represents the 19th Ward, a Southwest Side union stronghold and home to many Chicago Public Schools teachers. But he said the resolution -- which carries no legislative authority beyond urging the city to take a stance -- came about because of the situation with schools citywide.

"We need to get a handle on what's going on here, rather than just building more charters," he said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has been a strong supporter of charters, saying they give parents more school choice.

At the end of the City Council meeting, mayoral ally Ald. Danny Solis moved to have the charter moratorium resolution moved from the Education Committee to the Rules Committee. The rules panel is known among aldermen as the committee where plans that are controversial or opposed by the mayor often get sent to die.

One of the moratorium's co-sponsors, Ald. Pat Dowell, 3rd, said she was surprised Solis took the step of sending the proposal to "the graveyard" of Rules, but said she and other supporters will keep pushing for a hearing. "We need to have a discussion about this, and we're going to work to make sure that happens," Dowell said.

In his post-council news conference, Emanuel defended charters, saying they're important because they give parents choices. Asked whether it's contradictory to open new charters while closing under-utilized public schools, the mayor said "No, there's a level of choice there."