* Josh Dwyer at the Illinois Policy Institute recently derided Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia…
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.
* Chapa LaVia used to be a charter school supporter until a “virtual learning” charter school wanted approval in her district…
The state charter commission received 29 new charter school appeals from November 1, 2011, when the independent entity took effect, through June 30, 2013, according to a list of frequently asked questions about the commission posted on ISBE’s website in July. […]
In June, the commission voted to accept the withdrawal of 18 appeals by Virtual Learning Solutions, which wanted to partner with online curriculum company K12 Inc. to form the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley in 18 suburban school districts.
All eighteen school boards rejected the applications for the online charters, and Virtual Learning Solutions filed appeals with the charter commission in May. The commission, however, was poised to deny the appeals before they were withdrawn in June due to a one-year state moratorium on new virtual charter schools that took effect this April. Chapa LaVia also sponsored that moratorium measure, HB 494, and the governor signed it into law May 24.
“I think there’s still a great amount of concern over the [Virtual Learning Solutions and] K12 Inc. application, how that came through,” Laesch explained. “If you look at how much money the school districts spent, it’s well over $300,000 in legal defense for K12 Inc.”
* The Illinois Policy Institute’s Dwyer also opposed Chapa LaVia’s one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools…
State lawmakers should not support HB494 – the bill proposed by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, that aims to put a one-year moratorium on virtual charter schools in Illinois.
She represents one of the districts that would be affected by the potential opening of the Fox River Valley Virtual Charter School.
Chapa LaVia claims the law is needed because there is no process in place for approving, evaluating and funding a multidistrict charter school.
Unfortunately, she’s wrong. It’s all laid out in the state’s charter-school code.
In fact, a multidistrict virtual charter school must fulfill the same criteria as a traditional charter school to get its charter approved, must meet the same benchmarks on state tests as traditional schools, and is funded through the state charter commission like the other multidistrict charter school in the state – Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.
* Scott Reeder, the Illinois Policy Institute’s “journalist in residence” also penned a column supporting virtual charter schools…
My 7-year-old- Grace loves to draw and paint, and needs constant “atta girls” as she takes on difficult tasks such as playing a new piano piece.
She asks tough questions of her teachers – and expects answers.
On the other hand, my daughter Anna, who will be 5 in a few weeks, seems to always have her face glued to an iPad, working through difficult math puzzles and other educational games.
As soon as I arrive home from work, she begs me to allow her to log in to her school’s website to learn more.
My 2-year-old Caitlin likes to explore. She has her hands on everything – dogs, cats, shoes, clay. She experiences learning through touch.
No child is the same.
That’s why I was so disheartened to see the Illinois House Education Committee vote this week to approve House Bill 494, which puts a three-year moratorium on creating virtual charter schools. The bill’s sponsor has since backpedaled from such a long moratorium and has amended it to make it a one-year moratorium.
* But there is another alleged connection. From Progress Illinois…
A series of new reports allege that the State Policy Network (SPN) and its web of think tanks, including the Illinois Policy Institute, are reportedly driving a “right-wing agenda” across all 50 states.
On its website, SPN, a tax-exempt organization, says it’s the “only group in the country dedicated solely to improving the practical effectiveness of independent, non-profit, market-oriented, state-focused think tanks.” SPN works to “enable these organizations to better educate local citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders about market-oriented alternatives to state and local policy challenges.”
But the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and ProgressNow’s new study, which includes a local report for Illinois, maintains that SPN and its affiliates in every state are big pushers of public policy backed by the pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other right-wing funders, including organizations with ties to the billionaire Koch brothers.
According to the national report, some of the issues the think tanks peddle involve privatizing education, restricting workers’ rights and rolling back environmental protections, to name a few. The network of think tanks typically use the “same cookie-cutter research and reports, all while claiming to be independent and creating state-focused solutions that purportedly advance the interests or traditions of the state,” the report reads. […]
The Illinois-based report showed that the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), which describes itself as a “nonpartisan research organization working to make Illinois first in economic outlook and job creation,” received almost $2 million from the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund from 2005 to 2011. Other high-profile, out-of-state donors to IPI, which does not have to publicly disclose such funding information, include the Roe Foundation, started by SPN’s founding chairman Thomas Roe, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation, among others cited in the report. Overall, IPI had more than $2.8 million in reported revenue and more $400,000 in net assets in 2011, the study found. […]
Moreover, the study alleges that IPI attempted to profit from the privatization Illinois’ public schools through new virtual charter schools. IPI fiercely opposed state legislation, HB 494, which successfully established a one-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools in April.
The moratorium stopped Virtual Learning Solutions from setting up the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley in 18 suburban Illinois school districts. Ted Dabrowski, IPI’s vice president of policy, is a Virtual Learning Solutions board member. Also, Eric Kohn, who is reportedly married to a staff member at IPI, is Virtual Learning Solutions’ treasurer, Chicago Now reported in June. If the charter proposal moved forward, Virtual Learning Solution’s online school endeavor would have resulted in a projected $16 million in Illinois tax dollars over a five-year period.
IPI, however, has denied that its staffers had any financial interest in the online charter school proposal.
The Illinois report is here.
* Speaking of charter schools and the Illinois Policy Institute, Bruce Rauner hater Jon Zahm dug up a little noticed story from earlier this year about how Rauner College Prep - a Chicago charter school - dealt with an underperforming student…
They get to play by their own rules in these schools. If a student is underperforming, rather than motivate them and improve their performance, they get a letter like this:
To Whom it may Concern,
NAME REDACTED is a student who was required to repeat the eleventh grade at Rauner College Prep because he failed to satisfy all of our promotion requirements. Because he is a reclassified student, the credits he earned during his first attempt in the eleventh grade have been deleted. If the student were to transfer to another school, those credits would be repopulated as earned credits.
So, the parents are essentially faced with two choices: Let the kid retake 11th grade, or transfer to a public school with at least some credits from 11th grade.
If the kid transfers, the school bearing the name of a Republican gubernatorial candidate can move an under-achiever off its rolls. And then the public schools will get the blame for failing him or her.
Rauner, of course, has said he gave half a million dollars to the Illinois Policy Institute.