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posted: 11/9/2011 5:00 AM

Dist. 50, charter school aiming for solutions

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Woodland Elementary District 50 officials said Tuesday they are upbeat about receiving help in their quest to find what they say should be a better way to fund Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.

At issue is how general state aid follows Woodland children whose parents elect to send them to the small, environmentally focused charter school. Officials at Gurnee-based Woodland said the state should directly fund Prairie Crossing because it granted the charter in 1999.

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State law dictates how Prairie Crossing is funded.

District 50 board President Lawrence Gregorash said at Tuesday's meeting he and Superintendent Joy Swoboda had a positive meeting Oct. 20 with Prairie Crossing officials, who understood how the large school system is being negatively affected by sending state payments to cover charter school students.

"We walked out of that meeting with a common, shared understanding of working together to try to do what is in the best interest for Prairie Crossing as well as our school district," Swoboda said.

Swoboda said the goal is to formalize a partnership with Prairie Crossing to change how the state-sanctioned school is funded. Woodland officials have said they intend to take up the issue with state lawmakers.

Concern arose at Prairie Crossing after District 50 made an unsuccessful effort last summer to get the Illinois State Board of Education to revoke Prairie Crossing's charter.

Prairie Crossing, which has a 392-student capacity, 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, where enrollment is determined by lottery.

Of roughly $3.47 million in general state aid allotted to Woodland for the 2011-12 academic year, a little more than $3 million will be diverted to Prairie Crossing. A Woodland report states 324 of the district's students are enrolled at Prairie Crossing.

Woodland officials said about $461,000 in state aid will be left for 6,750 pupils who are in the district for prekindergarten through eighth grade.

If Woodland's enrollment declines, said Gregorash, that would cause its per-pupil value to rise and more money would be sent to the charter school. He said there may be a time "where those lines will cross" and District 50 won't have state money to divert to Prairie Crossing.

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