A Cook County judge has ruled Chicago’s Board of Education violated a moratorium on school closures when it voted last year against renewing the charters for a pair of schools in Englewood and Bronzeville.
Cook County Judge Anna Loftus on Saturday ruled in favor of Urban Prep Academies, which had sued to maintain control of the two charter campuses after Chicago Public Schools planned to take them over, amid allegations of sexual and financial misconduct by UPA leadership.
“Furthermore, the plain language of the statute itself, along with the definitions of ‘school closing’ found in (the school closing moratorium statute), inform this Court’s conclusion that CPS’ non-renewal decisions and subsequent actions constitute unauthorized school closures,” Loftus wrote in her ruling.
A CPS spokesperson said the district immediately appealed that decision.
“The ruling acknowledges the District’s findings as they relate to UPA’s fiscal mismanagement and violations of Title IX,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The District’s focus remains on ensuring that all CPS students have access to high-quality educational opportunities in their neighborhood as we open doors August 21 for the 2023-24 school year.”
Last October, the board voted unanimously against renewing the charters for the Urban Prep Academies campuses in Englewood and Bronzeville, with district officials citing “serious and unacceptable operational issues.”
CPS itself would have stepped in to begin managing those schools.
Urban Prep’s founder, Tim King, resigned his position last year amid allegations he sexually touched and groomed a minor Urban Prep student. King — who has not been charged with any crimes related to this investigation — reportedly denied those allegations, though they were substantiated in a report from the district’s Office of Inspector General.
But students and faculty at the UPA schools spoke out in favor of keeping their charters alive.
“This is a victory not just for the Urban Prep community, but for anyone who has supported our cause and believes in Urban Prep’s successful education model tailored for Black boys for nearly two decades,” UPA Chief Operating Officer Troy Boyd said in a statement.
Last month, an Illinois appellate court issued a temporary restraining order that prevented CPS from taking control of the campuses until Urban Prep’s lawsuit was resolved, according to WBEZ and the Chicago Sun-Times.
Only one member of the current Board of Education was a member when the board rejected UPA’s charter last year. Since then, new Mayor Brandon Johnson has appointed six new members.
Boyd said Urban Prep “looks forward to working with the Johnson administration, the newly appointed Board of Education, and CPS administrators” to renew a “positive partnership.”
The current school closure moratorium expires in January 2025.
In her ruling, Loftus wrote that when the board votes against renewing a charter, it is effectively voting to close a school, but also acknowledged that ruling in Urban Prep’s favor “would prevent CPS from exercising important oversight to ensure compliance with the law and the charters and to ensure students are not harmed.”
Still, Loftus wrote that granting an injunction in UPA’s favor is an “equitable remedy consistent with the facts and the law.”
“Ultimately,” she wrote, “this injunctive relief supports the strong public interest in ensuring the health and welfare of the entire school community, but most importantly the students.”