Alabama is not the only place where people are questioning the antics of their state charter school commission. So is Illinois. And they have much more experience with charters that Alabama has.
Here is an article that gives the entire picture. Here are highlights:
“There’s been a long-standing battle in education circles in Illinois and nationally around charter schools. Now, that fight is coming to a head in Springfield as legislation aimed at getting rid of a state commission that can overrule a local school board’s decision to reject a charter school moves toward passage.
This is the latest attempt to eliminate the Illinois State Charter School Commission despite opposition from charter school advocates who say it’s needed because local school districts are often hostile to charter schools. These schools are publicly funded but privately operated.
Since it was created in 2011, the commission has overruled local school districts on the closure or opening of 12 charter schools, including eight in Chicago. This has frustrated local school advocates who say those decisions should be made by the local school boards.
Charter schools first began opening in Chicago in the late 1990s with little controversy, but as the number of schools grew, so did the opposition, especially as Chicago Public Schools closed schools due to declining enrollment. The vast majority of charter schools are in Chicago, where there are 121 charter campuses.
Recently, the commission overruled two Chicago Board of Education decisions despite strong opposition from district officials.
In March, it gave the green light to Intrinsic Schools, which has one campus on the Northwest Side, to open a new citywide school downtown. It also allowed Urban Prep West, an all-boys school, to stay open next year. The Chicago Board of Education voted against those two schools in December.
“The district determined that Urban Prep West should be closed following four years of chronic academic underperformance and the school’s failure to meet clearly defined performance expectations,” said Mary Bradley, who directs the Chicago Public Schools Office of Innovation and Incubation’ to the nine-member board of commissioners before they voted 5-2 in support of Urban Prep West.
When an appeal comes before the charter school commission, operators have to prove there’s a need for their school, that it has community support, promising academics results, solid financials and that it serves at-risk youth.
During the March hearing, it was clear the commission standards were broader than what CPS uses. Bradley said Urban Prep West did not meet the academic and financial benchmarks established as part of a two-year charter extension CPS gave the struggling Urban Prep West in 2017. But Shenita Johnson, executive director for the commission, said the school met her body’s standards.
Some of the 12 charter schools that have gone through the appeal route have thrived. Southland College Prep in suburban Richton Park is labeled exemplary by the state, and it has been praised for sending all its seniors to college for six consecutive years.
But other schools like Betty Shabazz International Charter School, Bronzeville Academy Charter School and ACE Amandla, all on Chicago’s South Side, are facing academic challenges.
Three years ago, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close Shabazz, Amandla and Bronzeville due to low academic performance — those same schools are still doing poorly academically today. So far, the commission hasn’t closed any school it approved, but two schools were required to undergo remediation plans this school year. Johnson said it’s considering adopting a new school closure policy in June.
If signed into law, SB 1226 will abolish the charter school commission by 2020, ending the appeal route for charter school operators. The 12 commission-approved schools would then be under the Illinois Board of Education.”
Sound familiar? It certainly does to people in Washington County who are very frustrated at the lack of transparency from the state charter school commission, their willingness to ignore things state law requires them to do and to turn a deaf ear to strong local opposition to Woodland Prep, the charter approved to open this fall.
Editor’s note: When more than 60 people from Washington County showed up at the state school board meeting on May 9, state superintendent Eric Mackey privately told some that the county should consider becoming a charter school authorizer. However, he failed to mention that getting this designation is a time and manpower intensive process that most rural systems can not do because of limited resources, that any decisions by a local authorizer can be appealed to the state charter commission and overturned, or that local authorizers are required by law to actually solicit charter schools to their community. Because of this, only a handful of local systems in the state are local charter authorizers.