State lawmakers accuse Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Illinois State Board of Education of trying to open 48 new charter schools without input from local school boards, a claim which the board denies.
Flanked by parents, local school board members and community organizations, State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago) said he's frustrated by the lack of resources at schools in his district, like Kelvyn Park High School no longer having a college counselor on staff.
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So when he heard the ISBE may open 48 new charter schools--half outside the Chicago area--using more than $40 million in federal grants, he questioned why an appointed statewide board hadn't considered the financial needs of existing schools first.
"The thing that confuses me is why those representatives of our communities simply haven't been brought into this process," Guzzardi said. "The governor and the State Board of Education proceeded with an application for a grant to the federal government for over $40 million to open charter schools that our communities simply don't want."
Guzzardi has complained before about state government ignoring local decisions about charter schools, such as how the Illinois State Charter School Commission can overrule local school districts who reject a charter school's application.
ISBE spokeswoman Laine Evans refuted the group's claims, saying in a statement, "ISBE could never do what is being suggested in this release. ISBE is required by law to offer the money - once awarded - to start-up charter schools through sub-grants that are decided based on a highly regulated and competitive state procurement process. This procurement process is governed strictly by the state procurement code to ensure transparency and fairness."
ISBE Chairman Rev. James Meeks briefly interrupted the Friday morning press conference, inviting the groups to voice their concerns at the board's meeting in Chicago. The organization said they had a representative of their concerns at the meeting, and asked Meeks to leave.