IEA’s seat on the Charter Commission. Evanston teacher Bill Farmer responds, and so do I.


For several years,  including in my previous post, I have questioned why the Illinois Education Association placed Evanston teacher and IEA member, Bill Farmer, on the state’s Charter Commission.

Bill responds.

Fred –

I chose to remain on the Charter School Commission to continue to be an advocate for local control and community public schools.

Most of the current people sitting on the commission were appointed by Governor Rauner. I am the lone exception remaining from the Quinn administration. Many of the Rauner appointees are invested in the expansion of charter schools and proponents of school choice as the path forward to improve educational opportunities for Illinois students.

I do my best to provide a counter-narrative at commission meetings. Sitting on the commission is not an endorsement of the commission’s existence, but I would rather have a seat at the table and the opportunity to shift the mindset of commissioners when we are faced with appeal decisions.

You should note that I voted AGAINST overruling the CPS decisions. I’d be happy to discuss this in person or hear more about your concerns through direct communication.

Thank you – Bill Farmer

Dear Bill,

I appreciate the fact that you took the time to respond.

I disagree totally with your explanation however.

The reason that many of your cohorts on the Commission are invested in the expansion of charter schools is that the Commission was created with the charge to be the state’s charter authorizer.

The position of the Illinois Education Association towards the Charter Commission should be that the commission has no right to exist and that the Governor and Democratic legislature should immediately disband it.

Its existence violates the fundamental principle of local control of local schools. Why should a group of political appointees, regardless of who appointed them, have the right to overrule a local school board when it comes to approving a charter school?

Further, in June of 2016 the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Commission itself was heavily funded by the Walton Foundation.

The record of the Walton Foundation in support of the privatization of public education cannot be unknown to the IEA.

How you voted on the recent approval of two Chicago charters is not the point.

As a representative of the largest teachers union in the state, you and the IEA should not be about being a “counter-narrative” in an illegitimate conversation.

I won’t go into the decades of failure associated with the IEA’s “seat- at-the-table” strategy.

I only hope that you resign your seat on the Commission, or that Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly act as quickly as possible to disband the Commission.

Either way, please know that I respect your work as a teacher.


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