Appellate Court Finds CPS Did Not Violate School Closure Moratorium When It Revoked Charters of Urban Prep Academies

Urban Prep Englewood campus (artistmac / Flickr)Urban Prep Englewood campus (artistmac / Flickr)

An Illinois appellate court this week ruled that Chicago Public Schools did not violate a moratorium on school closures when it voted down charter renewals for a pair of South Side high schools.

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The First District Appellate Court on Thursday overturned a previous ruling that had found the school district violated the ongoing moratorium when it rejected a renewal request for Urban Prep Academies’ charters at its two all-Black, all-male schools in Englewood and Bronzeville.

Chalkbeat Chicago first reported on the ruling.

The Chicago Board of Education in October 2022 unanimously voted to revoke those charters, and CPS was set to take over management of those schools amid allegations of financial mismanagement and sexual misconduct by Urban Prep leadership.

Urban Prep’s founder Tim King resigned his position in 2022 following an investigation into allegations he sexually touched and groomed a minor Urban Prep student. King has denied those allegations, though they were substantiated in a report from the CPS Office of Inspector General.

That investigation found Urban Prep refused to take appropriate action to ensure student safety while these allegations were being investigated. CPS officials have also claimed Urban Prep leadership repeatedly failed to meet additional conditions of its charter.

But a Cook County judge last year ruled that by revoking schools’ charters, CPS had violated the moratorium on school closures. The school district rejected this argument and immediately appealed that decision.

In its ruling, the First District Court found that CPS had not violated that moratorium. Instead, the court wrote that Urban Prep was “asking us to not only rewrite the moratorium statute to encompass charter schools, but to also … limit the school board’s authority over existing charter schools.”

“We decline to do so,” the court wrote. “Having found that the moratorium does not apply to charter schools, we need not reach the parties’ additional arguments. The circuit court’s declaratory judgment entered in Urban Prep’s favor was in error and is reversed.”

An Urban Prep official did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

A spokesperson for CPS said the ruling “has no immediate impact on the current students at UPA.”

“District officials and the Chicago Board of Education will review this ruling and determine a path forward that best supports our students,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The District will take all necessary steps to ensure clear communication and engagement with impacted families prior to bringing forward any possible recommendations regarding this charter to the Board of Education.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | (773) 509-5431 | [email protected] 

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