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Friday, November 15, 2013
Proposed State Legislation Looks to Abolish Illinois Charter School Commission
“State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) wants to take away the Illinois State Charter School Commission’s power to overrule local school boards if they reject proposals from charter firms trying to set up new schools in their districts.
“On November 7, Chapa LaVia introduced a bill in the state House, HB 3754, that would essentially do away with the independent charter authorizer by repealing provisions involving the commission from Illinois’ Charter Schools Law of the School Code and the State Finance Act. The state legislature created the independent commission, which is responsible for authorizing high-quality charter schools in the state, back in 2011. The commission, which is comprised of nine members nominated by Gov. Pat Quinn and appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), is also tasked with considering new charter school appeals and charter application renewals.
“ISBE authorized charter schools prior to Illinois’ Charter School Quality Act, SB 79, and the legislation that created the charter commission. State Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and former state Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), now the Cook County Recorder of Deeds, sponsored that measure in their respective chambers. The charter-authorizing responsibility would go back to the ISBE under Chapa LaVia's proposed bill. No other House lawmakers have signed on to the measure thus far, but Chapa LaVia said state Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) is set to be added as a co-sponsor soon.
“Chapa LaVia said she wants to remove the commission altogether because it was created way too prematurely. The representative said she is introducing the bill now to start a discussion, ‘because if I don't do something drastic here, then people are not going to understand the severity of what's going on in the state if we don't do what we need to do now with these entities called charter schools.’
‘“I don't think people in my world, the General Assembly world, understand to the fullest what a charter school is today,’ Chapa LaVia continued. ‘Everybody thinks that charter schools are doing great, and that's not the true reflection of what exactly is happening.’
“Proponents of charters say the schools, which are independently run but receive public money and often raise private funds through foundations and philanthropists, provide families with alternative school choices. But charter opponents say they've been hijacked by corporate interests. Some education activists have said the charter school commission's main objective is to override charter denials in an effort to expand privatized education in Illinois.
“John Laesch of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, a suburban group that’s been pushing back against the commission, applauded the new bill, saying ‘a lot of people feel that their school board should be under local control’ because school board members are ‘really competent people [and] real, true public servants.’ School board members ‘really care about the community and are putting these charter schools to their tests ... and protecting their district and protecting the taxpayers,’ Laesch said, adding that the charter commission’s override power goes against the ‘Democratic system of government...’”