Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Illinois Virtual Charter School/ Illinois Charter School Commission by Suzyn Price

I am a member of the Naperville Community Unit School District 203, one of the communities targeted by Illinois Virtual Charter School (IVCS). We considered without action the IVCS proposal at our [school board] meeting last night. The proposal was submitted to us in March, thus initiating an official 45-day process, at the end of which we have to make our decision. The first part of the process was the hearing on the submitted proposal, a proposal that included a contract that was not the official contract and was presented by a very unprepared staff member from K12, the for-profit education group that is the contractor to IVCS to provide curriculum and management of the charter school. Our administrators provided a list of about 150 questions, which is allowed by statute, and asked for responses by Thursday of that week. We received notification that they would not be able to provide answers by our April 1 meeting--no excuse, no reason, just not providing it. They hope to be able to provide responses by the time we make our decision on April 15. Here are my comments from last night:

Clearly, from their complete lack of interest in the charter guidelines and the process as defined by state law, the IVCS believes that it does not need to work with the Board and staff of school districts. Their lack of participation in this process, as evidenced by sending an unprepared staff member from their "contracting" organization, their unwillingness to respond to questions and the fact that they didn't even send us the real contract to consider, seems to indicate that they are either not really interested in working in Illinois, or they believe that there is another way that they can receive their charter.

In fact, there is. The Illinois Charter School Commission, a group that is under the Illinois State Board of Education, but not answerable to it nor to any other authority, has the ability to override the decisions of school districts when it comes to charter schools. In addition, keep in mind that K12, the for-profit education group, has given, according to one source, $36,000 in contributions to Illinois lawmakers in the past six years.

Please understand that the Illinois Charter School Commission has the ability to tell our school district that we must pay money to a charter school--money that does not come from the state or from the Illinois Charter School Commission--but from our local taxpayers through their property taxes. The Illinois Charter School Commission, an unelected group of individuals from around the state of Illinois, not from Naperville, has the ability to override the decisions of locally-elected officials, your school board members, representing the values and priorities of your community, to take money from your students and your schools to pay a for-profit company to provide education that has not in any way proven to be superior than what is provided by your district.

I think this is a shameful circumstance, and I encourage all of the people who have contacted us to contact their local legislators, the Governor, and members of the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Charter School Commission to tell them what they think of this situation. I know I will.

-Suzyn Price

For more information on this topic: please read

Money Grab: Heather Steans, Chicago School Closings and K12 Inc. by John Laesch

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