Opinion

Open Letter: Illinois’s Legislature Must Reject Bill That Creates Moratorium on New Chicago Charters

By Andrew Broy | April 6, 2017

Photo: Getty Images
Dozens of charter public school parents, educators, and advocates in Chicago rallied together Wednesday to protest HB 3567, State Representative Will Guzzardi’s bill that would place a moratorium on any new charter schools in the city and dozens of other high-need communities in Illinois, denying thousands of children access to quality public schools.
HB 3567 would prevent any new charter from opening in districts in “financial distress” under the Illinois State Board of Education’s standards. This includes Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and 88 other school districts, many of which are located in high-need communities and suffer from lower academic outcomes.
Representative Guzzardi will claim to have students’ best interests at heart with HB 3567. But don’t let his attempt to stop charter expansion across the state based on a wrongheaded claim that charter schools cause or exacerbate the financial distress of a school district fool you. Representative Guzzardi doesn’t oppose the expansion of any other school type, including magnet, military, and IB school models; his bill is merely another political stunt at the expense of thousands of Illinois children and families.
The families in Representative Guzzardi’s Northside district will not face the detrimental impact of HB 3567. Seventy percent of CPS families in his district have access to high-performing public schools — Level 1 or Level 1+, as measured by CPS’s School Quality Rating Policy — despite the district’s financial woes. In fact, 14 percent of his CPS-enrolled constituents have chosen charter schools as the best educational option for their family.
But unlike in his district, parents in other neighborhoods across the city — and in other cities across the state — have been deprived of access to high-quality schools for far too long. In Englewood, on the southwest side of Chicago, for example, only 35 percent of students are enrolled in high-performing schools. Two-thirds of families in Englewood opt out of their zoned public school, and many rely on charters to afford their children opportunities that they would otherwise not have.
Who is Representative Guzzardi to limit the opportunities of families in Englewood and other communities who have historically been underserved by the traditional public school model?
These families want the same thing that many of Guzzardi’s constituents already have: access to great schools. Why deny them the same opportunities because they reside in different ZIP codes?
What’s more, Representative Guzzardi purports to support local control, and yet he sponsors a bill that would take away the right of local school boards to authorize charter schools in places like Chicago, Peoria, and Waukegan. If Representative Guzzardi truly wanted communities to decide which school models are best for their students, he wouldn’t dictate their options with blanket legislation.
Representative Guzzardi: the charter community urges you to pull HB 3567 and stop limiting the opportunities of families across the state who are currently stranded in school quality deserts. All families deserve access to high-quality schools that will prepare their children for the world that awaits them.
These families cannot wait for politics and entrenched financial problems to resolve themselves. They need great schools now.
Andrew Broy, a former public school teacher and civil rights lawyer, is president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, a group that supports and advocates on behalf of Illinois charter public schools.
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