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Coal supporters call on mayor, governor to end CPS’ hostile takeover of Urban Prep

The Coalition of African American Leaders (COAL) and supporters are holding an 11 a.m. press conference Tuesday, June 20th, on the third floor of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle, in support of Black youth receiving a quality education and to demand Mayor Brandon Johnson and Gov. J.B. Pritzker stop CPS from its illegal, hostile takeover of our historic Black-managed Urban Prep Academies.

The Illinois General Assembly has passed a law banning school closings, consolidations or phase-outs until the Board of Education, which will include a 21-member elected school board, is seated on January 15, 2025.

The CPS is seeking to close Urban Prep, which encompasses both Englewood and Bronzeville campuses, and absorb them into the CPS system based on false allegations and in defiance of Illinois law. No one should be above the law and CPS is in violation of Illinois law.

It’s a political move to seize our 400 Black students and the Urban Prep’s budget of nearly $8 million with no regard for the lives and the families of our 400 Black boys who are proud to be students at Urban Prep.

CPS officials have accused Urban Prep Academies of alleged fiscal mismanagement. From the pen of CPS, Urban Prep Charter Academy Network’s passed its 2022 evaluation. In a letter from CPS dated January 14, 2022, CPS stated: “The enclosed Financial and Operational Scorecard reflects Urban Prep Charter Academy Network’s financial performance from fiscal year 2020-2021 (FY21), I&I is pleased to report the Urban Prep charter Academy Network currently meets the standards set forth in the Charter School

Accountability Plan.”

CPS states that Urban Prep Charter Academy Network’s financial condition “Exceeds Standards.”

Besides breaking the Illinois law, CPS’s motives for seizing Urban Prep, which has received accolades world wide, is politically suspect. CPS is guilty of fiscal mismanagement having a deficit of $628 million deficit in the 2025-26 school year that media reports say will grow to three-quarters of a billion dollars soon after, according to WBEZ Chicago.

The closure of Urban Prep will negatively affect our Black young men who are looking forward to next year’s academic year.

“For the past 17 years, Urban Prep has had clean audits and for the past three years our schools have exceeded the reserves required by CPS. Urban Prep has met CPS’ financial score card methods, and at one point, CPS has admitted that in writing,” said Lacewell. 

In 2005, the University of Chicago conducted a study concluding that if a 13-year-old Black male would start CPS in the 9th grade by the time he is 26 and have a four year college degree, CPS’ Black male graduation rate would be 2.5 percent. That is unquestionably a record that shows CPS is not doing well for Blacks boys. Urban Prep exceeded that for 14 years.

Urban Prep has had 100 percent of our graduates accepted to a four-year college.In contrast, CPS’ graduation rate for Black males was barely 50 percent, but since we have been in existence that rate has now gone up to 65 percent. We had an impact on that because our young men are graduating at a 90 percent rate.

“Black children deserve a quality education and Urban Prep is providing our boys with a quality education; therefore. Urban Prep must be allowed to continue,” Craig Wimberly, President of the Chicago African American Leaders (COAL).

“We, as a community, cannot sit by and accept CPS shutting down Urban Prep. We must challenge the systems that do not prioritize the education of our children, that devalue our community institutions, and that do not listen to the voices of our community who strongly support Urban Prep Academies providing our boys with the educational and character-building tools to succeed,” Wimberly stated.

“We are proud of our academic record,” said Dennis Lacewell, Chief Academic Officer of the Urban Prep Academies. “Urban Prep Academies is out performing CPS in terms of the graduation rates for Black boys and young men better than CPS does.

“Our graduation rates last year was 91 percent versus CPS’ rate of 65 percent for Black boys, and traditionally we have outpaced CPS,” Lacewell stated.

So, we stand here today asking Mayor Johnson and Gov. Pritzker to do the right thing for our Black boys and demand that CPS cease its hostile takeover of our Black managed Urban Prep Academies.

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