Friday, May 23, 2014

Breaking Action on Charter Commission Bill

The Charter Commission Bill

HB3754, which essentially gets rid of chartering power of the Illinois State Charter Commission, has passed the Senate. Here's the vote.  You can tell from some of the votes that the bill is watered down, and it is.

It's going back to the House for concurrence, and barring any trouble there, will land on Quinn's desk. I believe there are some bills stacking up on that particular desk. (This is a bill that passed the House previously, then went to the Senate, got watered down, passed the Senate, and is now heading back to the House.)

The charter bill in its new form does abolish the charter commission. Charter operators can still appeal to ISBE, though. And ISBE will be setting up their own Charter appeals board. It isn't clear to me who will be on that board, but my initial understanding is that it will be ISBE members.

It's a bit of improvement because it brings the process closer to voters, and removes it from the hands of charter enthusiasts accountable to nobody. I'll look at the full text more closely later.

I would call this development a tiny, tiny step in the right direction. Mary Shesgreen earlier alerted me to the recent article in the Paper I Normally Won't Link To about Waukegan suing the charter commission, which re-authorized a Waukegan charter. The net effect of the charter operation there is to take the state money that is targeted for at-risk kids and funnel it off to the charter, which serves primarily kids who aren't "at risk." It's an interesting article.

The charter commission is a serious liability and needs to go. If we're going to be diverting dollars meant for kids-at-risk to kids not-at-risk, then that should be done by a group a little bit closer to actual voters and a little less gung-ho to implement an agenda. By the way, this diversion of funds is exactly, precisely the way the system is designed to work; it's a feature, not a bug.

Other districts could and probably should start similar suits, and the most recent commission-authorized charters (Gulen-linked) should be put under review by ISBE. I wonder if ISBE actually has the power to overrule the charter commission..

More later. There are other developments.

Incidentally, I asked ISBE Chairman Chico if he's been on any of the Turkey junkets sponsored by the local Gulenist-outreach foundation, Niagara; it seemed likely to me that he had been, given that his wife had received one of their big awards. This was the response from his aide, and I kid you not:

"Gery has not taken any of these trips since he's been the chair."

Talk about a parsing! Anyway, don't know about you, but I read the response as a yes, but not lately.  So it seems likely that there's been some soft-lobbying there on behalf of a group inextricably linked to charter schools in the state.  Theoretically I could be wrong about the yes, but I doubt it. He could have provided a much cleaner answer if the answer were no. Chico's law firm also appears to represent CMSA, and his wife was on their "Board" for a time.  It's Illinois; nothing is going to be clean.

More later.

H/t to Mary Shesgreen and the Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice group, and all the other partners in the coalition, and also to the indomitable Linda Chapa LaVia.

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