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Measure to Abolish Charter School Commission Advances with Promise for Amendment

A state representative sponsoring a bill to abolish the statewide commission that approves proposed charter schools said that he’ll work with members of the charter school community to find common ground on the proposal after it advanced out of committee.

Charter schools are public schools, but offer different curriculum and have different rules. While there’s a cap on the number of charters in Illinois, and most are located in the Chicago area, there are charter schools throughout the state.

New charters have to go through the local school board. If denied, the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which was established by state statute in 2011, can override the denial and approve the new school.

State Rep. Chris Welch, D-Westchester, said his House Bill 2100 to abolish the nine-member commission was aimed at creating a fair process.

“This is about respecting local control and providing a fair process for when decisions are made by a local school board,” Welch said.

His measure passed out of committee on the promise that he’d work with the charter school community to find agreement.

“In my conversation with both sides, there seems to be a comfort level with going before the Illinois State Board of Education [in place of the commission],” Welch said.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools Legislative Affairs Manager Ashley Munson said the group is willing to work with Welch as long as the goal is to improve education in Illinois.

“We chose on whether to go to Walgreens or CVS,” Munson said. “That’s choice, right? Which increases competition, but it also makes both stores better. And that’s what we’re trying to do. Just make schools better in Illinois by providing school choice to families that look like me, that don’t look like me, so we can have a better state overall.”

State Rep. Yehiel Kalish, D-Skokie, urged caution.

“Do I believe that there should be local control? I think within the charter movement itself, something I’ve been a part of for 15 years, we believe that there should be local control,” Kalish said. “There absolutely should be local control, local buy-in, etcetera, but just to blow it up, not a good idea.”

Kalish voted to move Welch’s measure out of committee on the promise that there would be an amendment to ensure the charter community’s concerns are heard.