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updated: 7/20/2012 11:44 AM

Grayslake District 46 weighs in on state charter school funding

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  • Ray Millington

      Ray Millington

  • Keith Surroz

      Keith Surroz

 
 

Grayslake Elementary District 46 has gone on record asking Illinois lawmakers to change how state-created charter schools are funded.

District 46's resolution mirrors a document created by neighboring Woodland Elementary District 50 in Gurnee. Woodland has solicited backing from nearby districts because of concerns over the flow of its state money to Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.

Board members at District 46 this week approved what was labeled the "District 50 Charter School Resolution." After the Woodland board passed the resolution in April, officials asked other school districts to consider approving the same document as a show of support.

In the resolution, legislation is sought to impose a limit on the amount of state funds withheld from local districts for the purpose of paying charter schools launched by the state.

"It's really just to get rid of the unfunded mandate regarding charter schools, to fund them the same way all other schools are funded," District 46 board President Ray Millington said of the resolution.

Woodland District 50 officials have said there should be widespread concern about how state-created charter school are funded.

Prairie Crossing, a small choice school, is within the boundaries of Woodland and Fremont Elementary District 79. Of roughly $3.47 million in general state aid allotted to Woodland for the 2011-12 academic year, a little more than $3 million of that total was forwarded to Prairie Crossing.

A Woodland report stated 324 of 6,750 district students were enrolled at Prairie Crossing for the last school year. Prairie Crossing offers an environmentally focused curriculum to students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Districts such as Woodland and Fremont must pay 100 percent of tuition costs for pupils who are sent to state-created charter schools. The resolution backs a "shared funding concept," with money for a charter school coming directly from the state and some from a local district.

District 46 board member Keith Surroz said the Woodland resolution was worthy of support because it appears more charter schools are coming. He said the amount of state money Woodland must divert to Prairie Crossing is "way out of balance" compared to the number of pupils at the choice school.

Last year, Prairie Crossing and Woodland officials said they agreed it would be beneficial to work together regarding a possible change in how the charter school is funded.

Woodland officials have raised questions about the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which formed in September 2011. The commission can authorize charter schools within large-district boundaries even if objections are lodged.

Prairie Crossing, created over the objections of officials at Woodland and Fremont in 1999, is one of two state-sanctioned charter schools in Illinois. Others operate as part of school districts.

District 46 board members voted 4-2, with one abstention, in favor of the resolution regarding the charter school funding. Michael Carbone, who said it's an issue more suited for state lawmakers, and Kip Evans were the dissenters.

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