Early last week, members of the Illinois House Education Committee voted to allow an amendment to House Bill 494, which aims to establish a three-year moratorium on virtual schools in Illinois, to go to the House floor.
The amendment was introduced by state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora, who represents one of the districts where a multidistrict virtual charter school is being proposed.
In response to increased pressure, she has proposed a second amendment to HB 494 – one that decreases the moratorium length to one year, excludes Chicago and commissions a study on multidistrict virtual charter schools.
According to Chapa LaVia, the moratorium is needed because there is no process in place for approving, evaluating or funding multidistrict virtual charter schools.
Unfortunately, she’s wrong – these processes are already laid out in the state’s charter school code.
- A multidistrict virtual charter school must meet the same 15 guidelines other charter schools are required to meet to get their charter approved. (105 ILCS 5/27A-7).
- Two virtual charter schools have already been approved at the district level: Chicago Virtual Charter School and Youth Connections Charter School.
- A multidistrict virtual charter school will be directly responsible for state and federal reports on its students, and will be held accountable for the performance of its students by the Illinois Charter School Commission. This includes student performance on the ISAT, PSAE and whether the school makes AYP under the No Child Left Behind Act. (105 ILCS 5/27A-5(k)).
- The Commission may also revoke a multidistrict virtual charter school’s charter if it fails to meet performance standards, fails to meet appropriate standards for fiscal management, violates its charter or violates the law. (105 ILCS 5/27A-9(c)).
- ISBE will directly fund a multidistrict virtual charter school. It will transfer funds to a charter school based on a percentage of a home school district’s spending per student. It does this by deducting that amount from amounts ISBE otherwise owes to a district. (105 ILCS 5/27A-9(f)).
- The Illinois State Board of Education already provides funding to a multidistrict charter school – Prairie Crossing Charter School, which operates in Fremont School District 79 and Woodland School District 50.
Either Chapa LaVia didn’t read the existing law or she has ulterior motives for pushing the amendment – namely to prevent the Fox River Valley Virtual Charter School from opening in her district. If that’s the reason, she should just come out and say so.
Josh Dwyer is Director of Education Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute