NEA’s charter position is okay but a little like closing the doors on an empty barn. No mention of vouchers?

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NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia convened an organizational national task force on charter schools to reconsider the union’s statement adopted by the Representative Assembly in Los Angeles 15 years ago.

The wheels of the NEA turn kind of slowly. The past 15 years have seen a lot of battles around charter schools. The NEA board of directors will consider the task force’s document at their next meeting.

I posted a copy of the document last week.

In 2001, the last time the NEA took a national position on charters, there were around 2,100 charter schools operating in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Most were run by parent groups, nonprofit organizations and a few for-profit education companies. About a half million students attended them nationwide.

The landscape has radically changed.

Today, half a million students attend charter school just in California alone.

Between school years 2003–04 and 2013–14, the percentage of all public schools that were public charter schools increased from 3.1 to 6.6 percent, and the total number of public charter schools increased from 3,000 to 6,500. In addition to increasing in number, charter schools have generally increased in enrollment size over the last decade. From 2003–04 to 2013–14, the percentages of charter schools with 300–499, 500–999, and 1,000 or more students each increased, while the percentage of charter schools with fewer than 300 students decreased. Similar patterns were observed from 2012–13 to 2013–14.

So there we were. It was September of 2016. Two months before the presidential election. We had fifteen years of the Department of Education run by pro-charter secretaries like Rod Paige, Maggie Spellings, Arne Duncan and now, perhaps worst of all, Betsy DeVos, and the NEA thinks it might have something new to say about charter schools.

The NEA’s main observation is that charters are no longer mom and pop shops and have become corporate managed and profit centers, threatening public neighborhood schools and public control of what should be a public institution.

The result of these efforts has been a massive and burgeoning sector of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards as public schools. Frequently the resulting charters are operated expressly for-profit, or are nominally non-profit but managed or operated by for-profit entities. These charters are nothing like the original conception of charters as small incubators of innovation within school districts. Most importantly, the growth of charters has undermined local public schools and communities, without producing any overall increase in student learning and growth.

I can’t argue with that.

Some of us have been saying it for a decade and longer.

I assume the NEA board of directors will pass it.

And then what?

Will the NEA and President Eskelsen Garcia follow her friend Randi Weingarten in school tours and seek a seat at the table with Betsy DeVos?

Or will they fight like hell against the Department of Education and its Secretary which has become the Mother of All Bombs when it comes to public, secular, neighborhood schools?

One observation: The Illinois member of the NEA task force sits on the Illinois Charter Commission, which has the authority to overturn local school district decisions to deny charter applications and which we have been trying to get the legislature to disband.

One more observation. Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration are not just charter advocates. Their other tool in the fight against neighborhood public schools is the voucher.

There is no mention of vouchers in this document.

I hope we don’t need to wait 15 years for it.

NEA’s charter school policy statement.

The NEA’s charter school taskforce policy statement will be discussed at an upcoming NEA Board of Directors meeting.

Charter School Policy Statement
As Recommended by the Charter Taskforce to the NEA Board of Directors


Charter schools were initially promoted by educators who sought to innovate within the local public school system to better meet the needs of their students. Over the last quarter of a century, charter schools have grown dramatically to include large numbers of charters that are privately managed, largely unaccountable, and not transparent as to their operations or performance. The explosive growth of charters has been driven, in part, by deliberate and well- funded efforts to ensure that charters are exempt from the basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools, which mirror efforts to privatize other public institutions for profit.

Charters have grown the most in school districts that were already struggling to meet students’ needs due to longstanding, systemic and ingrained patterns of institutional neglect, racial and ethnic segregation, inequitable school funding, and disparities in staff, programs and services. The result has been the creation of separate, largely unaccountable, privately managed charter school systems in those districts that undermine support and funding of local public schools. Such separate and unequal education systems are disproportionately located in, and harm, students and communities of color by depriving both of the high quality public education system that should be their right.

As educators we believe that “public education is the cornerstone of our social, economic, and political structure,” NEA Resolution A-1, the very “foundation of good citizenship,” and the fundamental prerequisite to every child’s future success. Brown v. Bd. of Ed. of Topeka, Shawnee Cty., Kan., 347 U.S. 483, 493 (1954). The growth of separate and unequal systems of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools threatens our students and our public education system. The purpose of this policy statement is to make plain NEA’s opposition to the failed experiment of largely unaccountable privately managed charter schools while clarifying NEA’s continued support for those public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by local democratically elected school boards or their equivalent.

Findings of NEA Charter Taskforce in Support of Proposed Charter Policy Statement_April 2017



This bill would stop charter school expansion in Illinois.

State Representative Will Guzzardi has introduced legislation that would all but stop charter school expansion in Illinois.

Guzzardi’s bill would block the opening of any new charter campuses in any school districts with the Illinois State Board of Education’s two lowest financial ratings.

CPS definitely qualifies for that.

Guzzardi’s argument is that if a school district like CPS can’t afford to run the school’s they have, they have no business paying for new charter schools which are paid for out of the district’s budget.

To illustrate the problem, Guzzardi held is press conference announcing the bill at Chicago’s Prosser High School.

Prosser has been hit hard by CPS budget cuts. Yet at the same time, Noble Charter Network opened at brand new school right across the street from Prosser with CPS funding.

Nearly one hundred school districts in the state would be covered by the bill.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) immediately went nuts over the Guzzardi bill. Their reaction suggests the bill has some legs and real support.


The Illinois Network of Charter Schools is pushing back hard against the Guzzardi bill that would limit charter school expansion in cash strapped districts like CPS.

At the presser Guzzardi was joined by state and local officials, including Omar Aquino (D-Chicago), Ald. Milly Santiago (31st), State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Belmont-Cragin), Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th and home ward of Prosser) as well as local parents and representatives from community groups like Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Download and listen to our podcast: Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers.

By popular demand: Klonsky brothers on the air and live internet streaming.


Due to popular demand, my brother, Mike Klonsky (who blogs at Small Talk) and I will be doing a live radio show, Hitting Left, on Friday, February 3rd at 11AM, CST.

Our in-studio guest will be Troy LaRaviere, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, former principal at Blaine Elementary and Rahm critic.

We and the good folks at WLPN, 105.5 FM Lumpen Radio, Chicago’s community radio station are trying this out as a pilot broadcast.

If you like it, let them and us know.

Proposed East Aurora charter would drain needed funds from the district.


Source: East Aurora Report Card.

Tuesday night’s East Aurora school board hearing on a proposed charter school had to be moved due to an anticipated larger than usual turn out for a board meeting.

The 7 p.m. was moved to the cafeteria at East Aurora High School. The hearing portion of the meeting was part of the Greater Good Education nonprofit’s application process to open a charter school at a proposed location within East Aurora district boundaries.

East Aurora is a mainly Hispanic school district serving mostly low income students where services are already stretched thin due to Illinois’ reliance on local funding for public schools. A charter school in East Aurora would be locally funded as well, taking funds away for redundant services.

I will report the results of the hearing as soon as I hear.

The following story appeared in the Aurora Beacon News.

Talking school funding issues with Ria Rai Harris on Straight, No Chaser.

Tune in on Monday, May 23rd at 6pm cst to The Straight No Chaser Show as I discuss the “pay for success” social impact bonds, Illinois’ formula for funding public schools, charter schools vs public schools and the failures of the Chicago Public School System with host Ria Rai Harris. H Cortez will provide us with part 2 of his 8 part special series in the “Money Moment.” View us LIVE at and subscribe to the YouTube page The Straight No Chaser Show.

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Has Learn Charters really withdrawn its appeal to the Charter Commission?

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From Tuesday’s blog post.

On Tuesday I posted about Learn Charter schools and their appeal of the decision of the District 187 board of education not to authorize a school in the district backed by Walton family money.

The District 187 board warned that the funding of the Learn Charter would bankrupt the district.

The charter appeal would go to the Illinois Charter Commission, the unelected group that has been given the power to overrule local school boards.

When my friend, Bob Zahnizer, contacted his state representative, Democrat Scott Drury, he received this response:

Dear Bob:

 Thank you for your email. Earlier this week, District 187 approved a negotiated compromise with respect to LEARN’s proposal.  As a result, LEARN has withdrawn its appeal to the Charter Commission.  Thank you for your continued interested in the success of our traditional public schools.

 If you would like to discuss this further, please let us know.

 Very truly yours,

 Scott R. Drury

Illinois State Representative

58th District

I will be following this closely to see if Drury’s information is correct and what exactly the negotiated compromise is.

There now appears to be no effective challenge to charter schools in Illinois.



-By Bev Johns

 For special education, charter schools admit and retain fewer students with IEPs, and usually completely lack the required Continuum of Alternative Placements.

So charter schools tend to be full inclusion in the general ed classroom schools, and tend to find ways to get rid of students with more complex needs and/or significant behavioral issues.

The original promise of charter schools was HIGHER academic results at a LOWER cost than real public schools.

Now those promises have been largely forgotten.

The state Charter School Commission reinstated three Chicago charter schools that Chicago wanted to close because of poor academic results. Even in my hometown of Jacksonville, a charter school that had abysmal academic results was closed with great difficulty and ONLY because the members of the Board of the charter school were convinced by influential community leaders NOT to appeal to the state Charter School Commission.

The Governor, the State Superintendent of Education and the Chair of ISBE are all avid supporters of charter schools,as are an increasing number of Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly (see below).

Illinois has received a $45 million Federal grant that will result in at least 25 NEW Charter Schools.

Despite a change in Illinois law last year to make clear that charter schools in Illinois were subject to Illinois special ed laws and rules, no one is actively enforcing it.

Jim Broadway, Illinois School News Service, states,

Bill to triple charter startup funding advances: HB 5918, a bill that ostensibly adjusts the time periods and other factors in the authorization of charter schools – but with language tripling state funded startup grants and loans from the current maximum of $500 per student to a new maximum of $1,500 per student, was advanced to the House floor by a 9-3 vote of the House PK-12 committee on Charter School Policy on Tuesday.

 Support for charter schools is growing in the legislature. While in the past charters were primarily a partisan issue, with support from Republicans and with Democrats either opposing them or just ignoring them, there are many Democrats in the House who now support the charter movement.

I will summarize the committee hearing:

Thapedi’s charter school bill, HB 5918, had very unusual testimony. Thapedi stated he had tried to work with the IEA, drafted Amendment 1 to meet the IEA requests, but did not offer the Amendment because “No matter how I amend they will not support the bill.”

The IEA representative stated the IEA was on record in support of charter schools if supported locally, but the amendment did not include the language it had given Thapedi on accountability for charter schools.

Thapedi stated that he had heard nothing from the CTU, and that he “never heard from anyone in the red shirts until now.”

The CTU representative stated he was unable to find Thapedi to speak with him.

NO ONE mentioned the tripling of charter school start-up funding (from $500 per student to $1,500 per student) that is in the bill.

In fact the IEA representative stated that the IEA and others “support per student funding” without mentioning any level of funding.

One State Rep stated she understood the Revolving Loan Fund

(1/2 of the Charter School start-up cost funding – the other 1/2 is a direct State grant of State funds) increase was for “community generated” Charter Schools.

The IFT representative stated the bill was creating a 2-tiered system.

HB 5918 passed by a vote of 9 to 3.

Democracy in Illinois. One unelected group overrules another unelected group on charter schools.


Some politicians, like 40th District State Representative Jaime Andrade, may prefer having their sponsorship of HB4268 on their campaign flyer without having to vote for it.

The Illinois Charter School Commission was established in 2011. Its members are nominated by the governor and appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).

This unelected group has the power to overrule a local school board on charter school applications.

Everywhere in Illinois outside of Chicago it means the Illinois Charter Commission can usurp local control of schools, authorize a charter school after it has been denied authorization by the local community and then force the local community to pay for the school.

In Chicago we don’t have local control of our schools. Our CPS school board is appointed by the Mayor.

Chicago remains the only school district in Illinois with an unelected school board.

Yesterday we saw what democracy looks like in Chicago, where one unelected group overruled another unelected group. The SCSC ordered that three failing Chicago charter schools must remain open.

CPS will foot the bill.

Three charter schools the School Board sought to close for poor performance won a reprieve Tuesday night as the state charter school commission voted 6-0 to keep them open.

Amandla Charter School in Englewood and Betty Shabazz International Charter School’s Sizemore Academy in West Englewood both were granted permission to stay open for two years — the amount of time left on the charter agreement they had with Chicago Public Schools. Bronzeville Lighthouse, which was up for renewal, received a three-year charter.

Legislative attempts to disband or reduce the power of the Charter Commission have failed.

HB 4268 would establish an elected school board in Chicago. With a ton of sponsors, the bill has seen no legislative action other than to assign it to the Rules Committee.

It appears that many of the bill’s sponsors see it as more valuable as something to put on a campaign flyer than to actually have to vote on it.