Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Another Reason To Oppose The State Charter Commission

Aside from it being an affront to the basic underlying principle of representative democracy, the State Charter Commission has evidently taken some kind of position on the Individuals With Disabilities Act that Rod Estvan explains clearly over at District 299.

Here's how Rod put it:

Access Living as an organization supports the legislation filed by Senator Kimberly Lightford (SB2627) and Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (HB3754) that would repeal legislation creating the Illinois State Charter Commission. Access Living requests that our sister organizations throughout Illinois, known as Centers for Independent Living also support these two bills, as should all individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities who have benefited from our State’s laws relating to special education.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) establishes a broad framework to define and regulate special education programs in the United States, but leaves to the states the responsibility for developing and executing educational programs for students with disabilities. IDEA compliance presupposes compliance with all State statutes, regulations and rules concerning special education. The Illinois State Charter Commission has challenged this position, asserting that charter schools are not subject to any State-imposed requirement that exceeds Federal special education statute and regulation.
We believe that by taking this position the Commission is authorizing charter schools to place as many students with disabilities as the school chooses to in any classroom, to create any teacher student ratio for special education the school chooses to, and to educate students with significant disabilities who require additional years of education only to their 21st birthday not the day preceding their 22nd birthday as currently required by state regulations if the charter school so chooses to do so.
Given this egregious determination by the Commission we believe the proposed legislation should pass the General Assembly and the Commission should be abolished.
Rod Estvan
Education Policy Director
Access Living of Chicago

So, there's that. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, and apparently the Commission is of the opinion that they don't have to do anything for students with disabilities beyond what is required by the federal government.

For me, it's enough that we have an obscure appointed commission with the ability to overrule elected school boards. That's just wrong. The only argument for it, the Tribune's argument, is that democracy doesn't work, and that sometimes you need to work around it. It's like the Fawn Hall argument, if you remember that one.

I've been running down the list of state lawmakers and I can't think of a single one who represents an area where the school board people are like You're right, we need the supervision of a bunch of unelected people.  Even Heather Steans -- don't get me started--  even she represents areas where they elect their school boards.* Those people care about this issue, and they're not likely to be happy about reporting to a group of charter zealots who never even bothered to run for office.

This whole premise that you hear of charter schools being exempt from all of these regulations and that being a good thing, the thing that's going to make them succeed. I always thought that was just a sly way of saying "without a unionized work force."  But we really ought to have some kind of forum where we go down the list of rules/regulations/laws that public schools are required to follow and then ask ourselves why on earth we'd exempt any public charter schools from them.

*I possibly have this wrong. I thought Steans's district went up into Evanston but it appears to be all Chicago. Still, the Charter Commission has burned CPS, too, and from what I hear they'd like to nix it, too. So I'm not sure exactly who Heather Steans's constituency is on this issue. If she votes against abolishing the Commission, then we should just set up a little appointed commission whose only duty is to overrule votes cast by Heather Steans.

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