by Michael Wille
Last week, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools hosted its annual “Have Your Say Day” at the Capitol. More than 1,000 students from across Chicago boarded buses at Soldier Field and traveled to Springfield to rally and meet with legislators. Their demands? Simple. Support HB 5225, which provides equal funding for charter schools across the state.
Currently, charter schools get a percentage of the district’s per-pupil funding ranging anywhere from 75 percent to 125 percent. However, most charters receive less than 100 percent and must fundraise to make up the difference. This inhibits the ability of principals to reward excellence in the classroom and incentivize outstanding instructors.
Despite this disparity, charter schools are still producing remarkable results year after year. A report we released in September concluded that 9 out of the top 10 open-enrollment high schools in the city were charter schools (based on composite ACT scores). Six of these schools are a part of the Noble Street Network, a group of ten high schools in Chicago that are transforming the educational landscape. In January, I had the privilege of visiting Rauner College Prep, a Noble Network school committed to sending all their students to college. There I discovered what Mayor Emanuel has called “the secret sauce” at these schools.
But the outstanding outcomes aren’t limited to this network. Urban Prep Charter Academy recently sent 100 percent of their graduating students to college for the third year in a row. The Youth Connection Charter School serves an at-risk population who has dropped out of high school and need a second chance in life. Teachers use an innovative digital learning model that allows these students flexibility in determining their schooling. In central Illinois, Quest Peoria Charter Academy students outperformed the district on every measure of the Illinois Standard Achievement Test during their first year.
Where these schools have thrived, success has followed. Illinois’ elected officials should support equal funding for charter schools across the state and ensure that all children have access to high-performing, quality institutions of learning.