In April of 2018 we tried to meet with our State Senator Iris Martinez over her continued support for the Illinois Charter Commission. Cassie Creswell of Raise Your Hand Action explained why we were there.
Another Illinois unelected body, the Commission was given the power to establish charters in public school districts even if the local school board had already rejected them. The local district would then have to fund the charter at taxpayer expense.
It was a total creation of the charter industry.
I’ve been part of the movement against the Commission and writing about it from day one.
We finally won that fight for more democratic schools.
Bruce Rauner had vetoed a previous bill that limited the power of the Commission and the Democrats did not have the votes to override his veto.
Over the past nine years the Commission has found allies in some strange places.
For example, when the Commission was first established, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) jumped at the chance to put someone on it.
His name is Bill Farmer.
The IEA did this in spite of the Commission’s purpose, which was to support the creation of charter schools.
In 2013, when I saw that Evanston IEA official Bill Farmer was a member of the Commission, I wrote IEA executive Director Audrey Soglin. I asked if Farmer was picked by the IEA or had acted on his own.
Needless to say, I did not find his arguments convincing.
Another strange Commission ally has been my own Democratic Party state senator Iris Martinez.
Even when the overwhelming most recent vote of the legislature was to abolish the Commission and with a guaranteed signature on the bill by Governor Pritzker, Martinez hung in there with a no vote.
Charter schools aren’t going away, of course.
However, the Illinois legislature along with Governor Pritzker have taken a good step in limiting the undemocratic power of the charter school industry.
No thanks to ex-Governor Bruce Rauner, the IEA and Iris Martinez.