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Your Voice in the Virtual Charter School Discussion

Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy sent the following message via email to D300 families and staff members on Friday, April 26:

This Tuesday, April 30, I will travel down to Springfield where I hope to testify to the Senate Education Committee at the State Capitol in support of a proposed 1-year moratorium on virtual/online charter schools in Illinois.  As we had reported earlier this month, the D300 School Board unanimously rejected the application by Virtual Learning Solutions Inc. (VLS) to establish an online charter school in D300.  I wanted to provide you with additional information about this concerning situation, and let you know the important role that you can take right now.

A few weeks ago, D300 was one of 18 school districts in the Fox River Valley area that received a proposal from VLS to operate an online charter school in all 18 districts.  The online school would be open to students in kindergarten through grade 12.  Funding for the online school would come directly from state dollars that normally go to fund our districts.  We find this problematic at a time when state education funding is already insufficient and unreliable.  The proposal calls for VLS to receive over $8,000 in state funding for every D300 student who enrolls in the online school.  Even if the student decides to leave the online school and return to a D300 school, that $8,000 would stay with VLS.

Our Board strongly opposed this  proposal from VLS because of its severe flaws and deficiencies, such as the lack of support for students with special needs and absence of extra-curricular opportunities.  At our public hearing a few weeks ago on the proposal, we were disturbed that VLS representatives could not answer the most basic questions about the program.

In Illinois, charter schools must be approved by local school boards.  If they are not approved, the charter school applicant can appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission.  Although every single one of the 18 local school boards opposed the VLS proposal, VLS has said it will appeal to the state commission.  The commission has authority to overrule the local school boards and go against the wishes of the local communities.

Legislators in Springfield have started the process of placing a 1-year moratorium on the establishment of virtual charter schools.  Known as House Bill 494, this legislation would allow state legislators to study and gather as much information as possible before approving online schools.  HB 494 has already passed the House of Representatives and is expected to be voted on by the Senate in the next few weeks. This is why I'm going down to Springfield on Tuesday.  While I am there, I will also be personally visiting individual legislators to discourage cuts to transportation funding, which have been proposed by Governor Quinn.

The timing is perfect for you to give your input!  Please join the parents and educators from across the region in contacting the Illinois Senate President and your state senator, asking for their SUPPORT of HB 494 for the following reasons:

•   Virtual/online charter schools were not in existence at the time the current law was created.

•   The current funding formula for charters is not applicable, since virtual/online charter schools do not require brick-and-mortar buildings, transportation, food services, security, etc.

•   Research is inconclusive as to the effectiveness of these schools.

Click here for a map of the state legislative boundaries within D300, to assist you in determining who is your state senator.  For your convenience, we have provided the following contact information:

 

John Cullerton

Illinois Senate President

217.782.2728 phone

cullerton@senatedem.illinois.gov

 

Dan Duffy

Senator for the 26th District

847.277.7100 phone

Dan@SenatorDuffy.com

 

Karen McConnaughey

Senator for the 33rd District

217.782.1977 phone

karenmcconnaughey33@gmail.com

 

Dave Syverson

Senator for the 35th District

815.987.7555 phone

info@senatordavesyverson.com

 

Michael Noland

Senator for the 22nd District

847.214.8864

noland@senatedem.illinois.gov

 

To be clear, online learning is already a major part of the D300 instructional program.  We believe strongly that online tools are a crucial component of our curriculum.  We are also very proud of the D300 charter school, Cambridge Lakes Learning Center, that was built in 2007 and approved by our School Board.  But we are strongly opposed to the particular proposal we received from VLS.  We feel it is important to support HB 494, so that the local communities have the necessary time to address our concerns and develop a better option for our students.

To watch videos of the D300 School Board's discussions on this important issue, you may visit our Board Docs webpage.  (Click on the Meetings tab at the top of the page and select 2013.  To watch the public hearing, choose the March 19, 2013, Special Board of Education Meeting, and click on Watch Video.  To watch discussion by our Board members when they voted against the proposal, choose the April 8, 2013, Board of Education Meeting, scroll down to agenda item #9.2, and click on Watch Video.)

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