Illinois legislators introduce bills to kill the state charter school commission
The state charter school commission is under attack. State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, has contempt for the state charter school commission, even though she voted for its creation more than two years ago. It was on full display the last time Jeanne Nowaczewski – the commission’s executive director – appeared in front of the...
The state charter school commission is under attack.
State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, has contempt for the state charter school commission, even though she voted for its creation more than two years ago.
It was on full display the last time Jeanne Nowaczewski – the commission’s executive director – appeared in front of the House Education Committee. Chapa LaVia interrogated her, asking her if she financially benefits from the commission’s approval of charter schools and questioning the commission’s integrity.
It’s no surprise then that Chapa LaVia, along with Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Westchester, has introduced concurrent bills aimed at killing the state charter commission.
House Bill 3754 and Senate Bill 2627 would eliminate the charter school commission and instead allow the Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, to handle appeals by charter schools whose proposals are rejected by individual school districts.
That’s the way it used to work before the charter school commission was created. Unfortunately, it didn’t work well.
One reason was that ISBE only devoted one part-time employee to evaluating charter school appeals – a herculean task.
The other was that ISBE is predisposed to reject charter appeals. So says a report created by the Independent Charter Authorizer Task Force in 2010.
That report found “the data suggest that a presumption of disinterest in charter schools exists […] at the State Board of Education.” The numbers don’t lie – between 1996 and 2010, 42 charter school applications were appealed to ISBE. Only two were approved.
School districts – to which all charter school applicants must first apply for approval – have been even more antagonistic toward charter schools. In fact, between 1996 and 2010, 148 charter school proposals were denied by districts – 96 in Chicago and 52 outside of the city. Superintendents and school boards claimed that all of these denials were because the charter school applications were “low-quality.”
The real reason that most of the charter school applications were denied was because charter schools represent competition for district schools – and a potential loss of revenue.
That’s precisely why the charter school commission was created: to give charter school applicants a second shot at getting their application approved.
Chapa LaVia also claims that the state charter school commission is playing fast and loose with the charter school requirements, handing out approvals left and right. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The charter school commission has only existed for a little more than two years and has only approved two appeals – hardly the actions of an overzealous, out-of-control group of rogue appointees.
One final fact: most charter schools outperform their traditional public school peers teaching very similar populations. Recent ACT test results show that all of the the top 10 highest performing non-selective Chicago Public Schools high schools were charter schools.
Those that don’t perform have been placed on probation or have had their charters revoked. The same can’t be said for most public schools.
Chapa LaVia and Lightford’s push to end the state charter commission is short-sighted. If the bill is turned into law, thousands of Illinois students will miss out on educational opportunities that would have made a significant difference in their lives.