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Legislation in Illinois to abolish Charter School Commission passes House Education Committee, HB3754 goes to full House

On March 6, 2014, the Illinois House Education Committee approved legislation to abolish the state's so-called "Charter Schools Commission." The Commission, which was established six years ago based on legislation proposed by ALEC, was given the legal powers to overrule local school boards, basically ordering the boards to approve charter schools that had been rejected locally.

The most dramatic example of the abuse of that power came when the Commission ordered Chicago Public Schools to approve the expansion of the controversial Concept charter schools in Chicago. Chicago school board members are using the commission as an excuse to speak in favor of more charter school expansion.

Many of the members of the Commission were bred in Chicago's "Office of Small Schools," which became the "Office of New Schools." As with so many activities designed to privatize public schools, the origins are in Chicago. Greg Richmond, who now serves in both national and Illinois positions, began his charter schools promotional career in Chicago, as did others promoting the expansion of charters now serving on the commission.

The expensive CPS new schools office continues to promote the privatization movements, as was noted in the testimony in favor of charter schools at the February 26, 2014 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education by Allison Jack, one of the many CPS veterans who have gone on the build the charters.

The best description yet provided on line comes from a posting on Fred Klonsky's blog on the morning of March 6, 2014:

"Several years ago the Illinois General Assembly established the Illinois Charter Commission," Klonsky writes. "The commission has the power to over-rule local communities and school district boards of education in awarding charters to the growing number of privately operated but publicly financed schools. A requirement to sit on the board is that you are a supporter of charter schools.

"In fact, Commission Chairman is Greg Richmond, President and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers," Klonsky continued. "To read more about Richmonds sleazy relationship to the American Legislative Exchange Council, read my brother's post from 2012."

"Commission members include retired Glen Barton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Caterpillar; Michael Jacoby, Illinois Association of School Business Officials; and Angela Rudolph of the charter hucksters at Democrats for Education Reform. While Chicagoans aren't allowed to elect our school board, the establishment of this commission takes away the right to the local democratic control of our schools even one step further.

"Yesterday the Illinois House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee passed Representative LInda Chapa LaVia's proposal to dissolve the commission

"'Do you support local control? Chapa LaVia repeatedly asked Kip Kolkmeier, contract lobbyist for the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Chapa LaVia's bill is HB4237.

Klonsky reported on how organizing helped get the bill out of committee. "Due to the efforts of John Laesch of Illinois Jobs with Justice and Tim Furman of the Rogers Park Neighbors for Public Schools 34 witness slips in opposition were recorded," Klonsky reported. "According to Jim Broadway of Illinois School Update, the slips signed by parents and teachers and school superintendents and businessmen and folks who said they were just interested citizens. There were only three witness slips in opposition: Kolkmeier (representing the Illinois Network of Charter Schools), Commission member Angela Rudolph and Illinois State Board of Education General Counsel Nicole Bazer."

The bill now goes to the full House.

THE CTU PRESS RELEASE:

Teachers, fair education activists push for bill to eliminate Illinois Charter School Commission

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin, 312-329-6250

March 6, 2014

Chicago-The Chicago Teachers Union reports that through the hard work of CTU members, allies across the state and Illinois House Education Committee Chairwoman Linda Chapa La Via, the House Education committee voted yesterday to recommend HB 3754, a bill to eliminate the Illinois Charter School Commission, to the full Illinois House on a 10-3 vote.

The Charter School Commission was an initiative of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the organization behind the so-called "stand your ground" law at the heart of the Trayvon Martin tragedy. The commission serves as an appeal body that can overrule local education agencies with regard to charter school authorization issues. Two Concept Schools in Chicago exist because of commission authorization, and Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz even commented that additional charters were approved in January because of the commission's appeal power.

Worse, the commission's executive director stated at a meeting of the Illinois Charter School Funding Task Force that the point of the commission is to expand the number of charter schools in Illinois. In other words, the charter commission supports policies that allow for cronyist organizations with questionable finances like the United Neighborhood Organization and pay-to-play political actors like Concept Schools, sector-wide discipline programs that lead to 12 times the number of student expulsions as traditional public schools, the destruction of neighborhood schools for the benefit of connected charter operators, and result in no better educational outcomes for students.

Charter expansion is a policy that benefits few and harms many. Today's committee vote is thus a crucial first step in slowing down a failed policy.

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Comments:

March 12, 2014 at 7:11 PM

By: Carol Hayse

Charter Commission

George--Your readers may also want to know that when a school's charter is approved by the Charter Commission, that school OPERATES AS ITS OWN SCHOOL DISTRICT, accountable to no body. It also receives funding that will probably be larger than that of public schools, because the Charter Commission gets a certain percentage off the top of what that school receives FROM THE LOCAL DISTRICT--which has no control over the school.

April 4, 2014 at 10:52 AM

By: John Duffy

Retired Teacher

In addition to ALEC's majors role in pushing the Charter Commission through the state assembly,the first year of its operating budget, and possibly More, was paid for by

the Walton Family Foundation, and major financial supporter of privatizing public schools.

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