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posted: 10/5/2011 5:00 AM

Woodland District 50 wants to stop funding charter school

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  • Joy Swoboda

    Joy Swoboda

  • Video: Prairie Crossing in action


Gurnee-based Woodland Elementary District 50 officials say they no longer can afford to divert state money to fund students whose parents send them to a public choice school in Grayslake.

At a meeting Tuesday night, officials offered an idea to change how the state funds children who attend Prairie Crossing Charter School. They contend the 12-year-old model of per-pupil state aid following the students from local districts to Prairie Crossing no longer works.

But Prairie Crossing representatives raised questions of their own about District 50. Prairie Crossing board President Steve Achtemeier said at least $18,000 in legal fees were incurred to fight Woodland's unsuccessful effort this year to get the state board of education to revoke the school's charter or reduce District 50's share of funding.

"It was obviously a threat," Achtemeier said outside the meeting room.

With a 392-student capacity, Prairie Crossing's enrollment is determined by lottery. The school has an environmentally focused curriculum.

Prairie Crossing is within the boundaries of Woodland and Fremont Elementary District 79. Illinois' per-pupil financial aid follows Woodland and Fremont children who attend Prairie Crossing.

District 50 Superintendent Joy Swoboda stressed she supports Prairie Crossing and complimented the education it provides to children. However, she said, Woodland intends to inform state legislators the charter school funding mechanism must be changed.

Under Woodland's plan, the state would directly fund any charter school not approved by voters or boards from local school districts. The state granted a charter to Prairie Crossing, which opened in 1999 over the formal objections of the Fremont and Woodland boards.

Achtemeier said Prairie Crossing needs to study Woodland's proposal.

Woodland is expected to send $3 million to cover about 325 students at Prairie Crossing this academic year. Woodland sent $9,207 in state tuition payments for each student who attended Prairie Crossing in the 2008-09 academic year and $9,764 in 2010-11, according to a District 50 report.