A recent audit by the Chicago Board of Education found that employees who had been banned by Chicago Public Schools were getting jobs with local charter schools. Per a report from the Chicago Tribune, these employees—many of them
teachers—were put on a “Do Not Hire” list by CPS. However, since Chicago charter schools are not technically a part of CPS, school administrators did not have access to the list during the hiring process.
Chicago Board of Education Inspector General Nicholas Schuler spearheaded the audit. He found 163 former CPS employees working with charter and contract schools. Three of those teachers were on the CPS “Do Not Hire” list because of allegations of sexual abuse. Twenty-two others were on the list for using corporal punishment or otherwise committing abuse against students. Others were blocked from being hired at CPS because they were deemed incompetent or failed to follow school district rules.
As coverage notes, none of the incidents that led CPS to place these teachers and employees on a “Do Not
Hire” list resulted in criminal charges or convictions. As such, when local charter schools ran criminal history checks, those checks came back clean of the red flags CPS had spotted.
Charter schools are publicly-funded institutions that operate independently. Reports explain when a student decides to attend a charter school instead of a public school, that student’s public education dollars follow them to the new school. This system means that students and their families don’t pay tuition to attend charter schools. As charter schools operate independently of the government, they can maintain curriculums and policies with different standards than those held by public schools.
For the most part, background checks are not among the policies that charter schools can tweak at will, reports note. Charter schools are required to conduct independent criminal history checks on all employees. All the charter schools that hired people CPS had blacklisted claimed they did their due diligence and vetted the employees in question.
Coverage identifies the main difference between Chicago’s public schools and Chicago’s charter schools for background check procedures is access to the “Do Not Hire” list. Criminal histories are public record, but the “Do Not Hire” list is an internal CPS resource. No background check that Chicago charter schools could have used would have permitted access to that list.
According to the Tribune article, CPS is in the process of creating a new protocol that would give independently run schools access to the “Do Not Hire” list. The district plans to collaborate with local charter and contract schools to make the list more comprehensive. If that happens, then a search of the CPS “Do Not Hire” list could become a standard part of the background check process for all schools—public and private—in the Chicago area.