Bill to give more cash to charters moves forward

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SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House Executive Committee voted 10-1 Wednesday afternoon to approve a bill that would significantly increase the amount of funding that school districts have to provide for charter schools.

The vote came despite a furious campaign against the bill by the Chicago Teachers Union and others who fear the bill will divert millions of dollars away from neighborhood public schools.

HB 4277, as amended, raises the minimum support for charter schools from 75% to 95% of the district’s “per capita student tuition, multiplied by the number of students residing in the district who are enrolled in the charter school.”

The tuition is a dollar amount that a district would charge a non-resident student to attend a school in the district. It is based on the district’s operating costs per student.

Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), chairman of the committee, sponsored HB 4277 and the amendment that turned the bill essentially into an income producer for charter schools. Although charter school laws apply statewide, by far most charters are a part of CPS.

Burke said the bill is aimed at achieving “equal funding for our charter schools, equal funding with the public schools.” It is “an issue of fairness,” Burke argued, adding that his main concern is the disparity in the salaries of teachers. “They start out fairly equal, but by five years [on the job] you see a great difference in their sala4ries.”

In a last-minute effort to get its members and supporters to lobby legislators against Burke’s bill, the Chicago Teachers Union argued that it 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.”

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