The Illinois House took another step in the wrong direction last week by passing an amendment toHouse Bill 494, which institutes a one-year moratorium on new charter schools with virtual learning components located outside of Chicago.
Despite what some legislators may believe, this is not just a moratorium on new multidistrict virtual schools; it is a moratorium on single-district virtual schools as well as charter schools that use online learning tools such as Khan Academy in the classroom.
It also needlessly cuts off access to virtual schools for students who could benefit from them the most, including high school dropouts and high-achieving students looking for intellectually challenging courses.
Furthermore, it would set a dangerous precedent by making it acceptable for the Illinois General Assembly to intervene in the charter school approval process, even though a charter school commission already exists at the state level to review complex cases or appeals by charter organizations that have been turned down by school districts.
Even when presented with these arguments, supporters of the amendment still contend that the moratorium is needed because there is no process in place for approving, evaluating or funding multidistrict virtual charter schools.
Unfortunately, they’re wrong – it’s all laid out in the state’s charter school code.
In fact, a multidistrict virtual charter school must meet the same guidelines other charter schools are required to meet to get their charter approved (105 ILCS 5/27A-7). Its students must meet state standards on the ISAT and PSAE tests 105 ILCS 5/27A-5(k), and it will be funded like the other multidistrict charter school in the state – Prairie Crossing Charter School, which operates in Fremont School District 79 and Woodland School District 50 105 ILCS 5/27A-9(f).
Since the amendment to HB 494 passed the House it now moves to the Senate. State Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Plainfield, and Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, are sponsoring the bill. It’s likely that the Senate Education Committee will vote on the bill in the next two weeks.
There are no good reasons for this bill to make it past the committee. It is wrong-headed and exactly what is not needed in a state that is struggling to keep up with its peers when it comes to education.
If you share the Illinois Policy Institute’s position and want to make your voice heard, consider “slipping” on HB 494.
To do so, click on this link. Click on the box to the right of Senate Education Committee hearing. Then click on the “create witness slip” button. Insert your contact information under “identification” and be sure to list your organizational affiliation under “representation.” To oppose the bill, mark “opponent.” Unless you plan on attending the hearing in person, mark “record of appearance only.”
Witness slips are read off at the start of a committee hearing and provide members with an understanding of the breadth and depth of a measure’s support or opposition.
Josh Dwyer is Director of Education Reform at the Illinois Policy Institute