From Illinois Policy Institute -
Illinois has fallen behind its neighbors in offering alternatives to students outside major population centers. All children deserve the chance at a brighter future with schools that work best for them. Where choice in education is available, parents respond. Most downstate and suburban parents have few alternatives to their local public schools. A mere 14 charter schools serve as alternatives. Only 3,600 students attend these charter schools. Compare this to Chicago where more than 45,000 students currently attend a charter school, see graphic 1.
The biggest barrier to charter development in suburban Chicago and downstate Illinois has been the authorization process. Historically, prospective charters wishing to operate in a given district were required to obtain approval from that district’s existing local board. This is the equivalent of requiring a local fast food restaurant to obtain McDonald’s approval to set up across the street. That failed approval process has led to the rejection of 63 charter school proposals since the creation of Illinois’ charter law in 1996. Even more likely, many potential proposals were never even presented because of the process.
Since 80 percent of Illinois students are located outside the city of Chicago, more learning alternatives should be serving them from one year to the next. The special interests of the educational status quo must give way to the expansion of these schools of choice. Outside competition, with better practices and a new approach to education, should challenge the establishment schools that have been around for decades.
- Abolish the arbitrary cap on charter schools for the entire state of Illinois.
- Equalize funding for charter schools across the state.
- Maintain strong charter school authorizing practices that minimize bureaucracy and focus on quality and accountability.
Why This Works
Charter schools are dramatically altering the way students learn. The one-size-fits-all model of a teacher in front of students in the classroom is slowly becoming a relic. More choices mean that more families can match up the best school with their children’s needs.