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Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Charter funding bill not yet a done deal

SPRINGFIELD -- The Chicago Teachers Union and other charter critics spoke out strongly in opposition to a proposal that would increase the funding that school districts must provide for charter schools, squaring off against supporters who want equal funding with traditional public schools.

The Illinois House Executive Committee voted 10-1 to approve the proposed bill, which is still far from a done deal. It still must pass the full House, make its way through the Senate committee process and win majority support in the Senate before it can be delivered to Gov. Pat Quinn for his consideration.

House Speaker Michael Madigan filed HB 4277 in January as a “shell bill,” void of content. But Madigan handed sponsorship to Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago) last week and waived procedural deadlines that have killed most other bills that originated in the House and have not yet reached the Senate.

The vote came despite a furious campaign by the union and other organizations that fear the bill will divert millions of dollars away from neighborhood public schools. But already in Chicago, the district is moving toward equal funding for charter schools through its district-charter compact, which calls for equalized funding, more charter accountability and other measures. Cities that participate in the compact, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are eligible for a pot of $20 million in implementation funding that the Gates Foundation will dole out over the next several years.

Opponents of the bill also pointed out that, while charter schools would receive an equal share of a district’s tax dollars, the neighborhood schools would not share in the corporate and philanthropic contributions that charter school organizations often reap.

HB 4277, as amended, would require districts to provide at least 95%--up from 75%--of the district’s per capita student tuition to charter schools, multiplied by the number of students enrolled in the charter. Student tuition is the dollar amount a district would charge a non-resident student and is based on the district’s operating costs per student. CPS operating costs are $13,078 per pupil, according to the district’s 2011 state report card.

Burke argued that the bill is “an issue of fairness,” adding that his main concern is the disparity in the salaries of teachers, which are often lower in charters than in traditional schools in which teachers are CTU members. “They start out fairly equal, but by five years [on the job] you see a great difference in their salaries,” he said.

Advocates for charter schools sought to reinforce Burke’s fairness argument. Opponents pointed out that neighborhood schools already suffer from lack of funding, a situation that would worsen if the bill becomes law.

Elizabeth Purvis, CEO of Chicago International Charter Schools, claimed that charters “are part of the public school system.” CIC schools serve 9,000 students in Chicago and Rockford, she said, with 86% of them from low-income families and 95% of them minorities.

Charters must hire state-certified teachers and meet all state and federal requirements, maintain financial stability and meet any local regulations, she said. “Over 50,000 students in public charter schools [in Illinois] deserve equal treatment under the law,” Purvis said.

Meanwhile, the union charged that the bill would “force school districts to divert more funds from neighborhood public schools to charter schools. While public schools are funded almost entirely by taxes, charters receive private money from corporate privatization proponents.”

“Now is not the time” to increase charter funding “to the detriment of our neighborhood schools,” CTU Political Director Stacy Davis Gates told the committee, referring to the $700 million budget deficit that CPS says it faces in the FY 2013 budget.

Gates also cited national research showing charters have “not been particularly effective” at educating students and that they often “exclude English language learners and special education students.” A widely-publicized 2009 Stanford University study found that only 17% of the nation’s 5,000 charter schools reported academic gains “significantly better than traditional public schools,” while 37% performed worse and 46% made “no significant difference.”

Illinois Education Association lobbyist Jim Reed objected that HB 4277 would affect agreements reached in negotiations between charter schools and their school district boards. A spokesman for the Raise Your Hand organization complained that neighborhood schools in Chicago are already underfunded, citing large class sizes and the lack of music and art instruction.

HB 4277 will not achieve the parity in teachers’ salaries that Burke desires, the Raise Your Hand witness said. “We’re not against equalized funding … [but] there’s no guarantee [in the bill] that the money will go to salaries.”

Jim Broadway is founder and publisher of State School News Service.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Charters look at where you are spending before asking for more.

HB4277 is asking for more money for Charter Schools from their local school district, in our case CPS. It is inconceivable that charter schools are so desperate for money when as of last year Juan Rangel, the CEO of UNO, made a salary of $266,000 for managing 11 schools (10 K-8, 1 High School). Kind of makes JC Brizard’s salary of $250,000 seem like a bargain for overseeing 675 schools, doesn’t it? If Charter schools are saying that they are underpaying teachers due to lack of funds but they are certainly making up for it with executive compensation. Please ask your legislators to vote NO! on HB4277.

dzipio wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Show us the money

Until and unless charters show the taxpayers of Illinois their books, they should not receive any money from the state. If they want to be funded like public schools, then their books should be public. Ben Joravsky at the Reader had to get a Freedom of Information Act request to get any charters to even partially open their books.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Charter schools are public schools

Charter schools ARE public schools. They serve the same percentage of minority, low-income, and special needs students as traditional public schools. Their teachers are certified. Their students are performing better than traditional neighborhood schools. Elizabeth Purvis' statement was not a CLAIM, it was a FACT. It is time for the children at charter public schools to receive their fair share, it is their civil right.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago


"CPS operating costs are $13,078 per pupil" true but charters are not asking for 95% of this number in this bill. They are challenging the PCTC number which is different. ($9,765.97 in school year 2009-2010)

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

I work at once of the CICS

I work at once of the CICS schools and we have close to 25% of our student body as having an IEP or 504 plan. Our ACT score is also competitive, especially given the number of students with special education accommodations. It is frustrating to hear my school lumped in when we take in so many students with learning disabilities AND we retain them.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago


i think we at CPS schools are all LUMPED together we all have something in common. Let's face it Charter Teachers and Regular Teachers really should unite...we are all in for a future of low pay and no security, as we all crawl, scratch, and grovel (i mean race) to the top! Once Obama, Brizzard and Rahm get everyone to be a charter teacher...they will turn on them too...and blame them for societies ills!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Charter teacher

To the charter teachers...we all entered the profession to work with kids, especially those of us in CPS, to teach kids who are often disadvantaged.

I have colleagues that left charter schools because of apparent mismanagement issues--overzealous managers who justify their high salaries by forcing teachers to adopt practices based on their own whims instead of collaborating with them as peers.
Charter teachers, your CTU colleages want to work with you in order to allow the teachers in the building to promote quality pedagogy, not the political ideology of privatization and a bloated administration. Join with us to stand up for our schools and our kids and their learning environment. Join with us to promote the policies and practices that are effective, not just politically expedient. Join with us to fight for the resources that our students deserve and need in order to excel. Join us!

Xian Barrett wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Facts and fictions

It's a little amusing that the above poster puts "CLAIM" and "FACT" in all caps, as their post is full of fabrications.

Not all charter school teachers are certified. Here's the Noble St. FAQ:
75% of non-special education teachers are certified.

There is plenty of research on the disparities in special education enrollment and servicing by charters. There's a catalyst article on the front page here, or the Ed Week version here:

In the same article, CPS officials correctly state that with their lottery system, charter schools are essentially a version of magnet schools. Compared to magnet schools, they under perform. Nationally, according to the CREDO study, they are twice as likely to under perform comparable neighborhood schools than outperform them.

In CPS, they enroll a low-percentage of low income and ELL students than neighborhood schools. They are comparable in their enrollment to magnet schools in low-income, but IIRC (I'll try to look it up later today), they underenroll ELL students.

There are great charter school teachers, parents, students, and schools. In the aggregate, they are a dangerous gamble for your child, and there's no charter school in the world that is good because it's a charter.

No amount of shouting by anonymous charter advocates will change those facts.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

All Charters Are Public Schools Until it Suits Them Not to Be

As soon as the teachers at a charter school try to organize, they immediately try to block it by claiming "we're not public schools".

dzipio wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Charters try to be both

I agree. Charters want to use public money, but refuse to open their books so the public can see where that money is spent. They want the best of both worlds at no cost to them.

Ministry of Truth wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Charters are Criminal Enterprises of the 1%

They take public assets for private use with no accountability for the destruction and death they cause children. Whatever happened to the case where a charter school killed three students on a trip?

Anonymous wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

Not true!

Charter Schools are NOT public. Public schools will take any child regardless of their needs. Charters are unequitable when it comes to accepting students. If parents do not comply with the charter's rules their child will be removed from the school's enrollment. Yes, charter schools have students with special needs and English Language Learners but they are not serviced as such. As for outperforming neighborhood schools..... I have yet to see the "growth" they claim to be making.

Mr. Chips wrote 2 years 35 weeks ago

37+ to a class

I was complaining about having 34 kids in my class and my buddy (a charter school music teacher) tells me that he doesn't have any class that is less than 37 kids. The school fired several staff members a few years after they went the charter route, and the class size went up. And THAT my friends is how schools run by CEOs make a profit.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Charter schools are public"ish" schools

While charter schools are publicly funded, it is hard to argue that they are truly public in the same way as district-run public schools. They do NOT teach the same level of special needs or ELL students and do NOT outperform district-run public schools. According to a recent report from NEPC, charter schools are actually spending more than their public counterparts in many cases.

Largely, students at charter schools do about the same as those at public schools. However, charter schools are more efficient at removing low-performing students, and less efficient at providing services to special education and ELL students.

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