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Article updated: 4/10/2013 1:51 PM

Dist. 303 charter school rejection may be template for battle

By James Fuller

In denying the application for a virtual charter school this week, St. Charles Unit District 303 may have revealed the cornerstone of the argument up to 18 school districts involved in the decision will soon bring to a state commission.

"The proposal from Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. to establish the Illinois Virtual Charter School @ Fox River Valley is hereby denied as the proposal does not comply with Illinois law, and the proposed school would not be in the best interests of the students it is designed to serve," reads the resolution unanimously approved by the D303 school board.

It's the lack of compliance with state law that might be a major battleground when the application heads to the state charter commission, which has the authority to overrule any and all of the local school board decisions on the charter school.

The main example of failure to comply with state law is the absence of any contract to establish the charter school between Virtual Learning Solutions, Inc. and proposed school management company, K12, Inc., said D303 Superintendent Don Schlomann.

"State law requires that a contract be presented to a board of education," Schlomann said. "We asked for a contract. We never got a contract. We got a template. The law is very specific."

Schlomann said all 18 other districts received the same template but no contract. An additional 1,080 page response to questions posed by the various districts at local public hearings also contained no contract, Schlomann said.

"I think it's fair to say that everything we've been told by the company prior to, and even in the application, indicates they intend to take this to the state commission," Schlomann said. "They always saw going to the school boards as a formality."

What happens if most or all of the 18 districts deny the application is not clear to Schlomann. There could be one hearing featuring the concerns of all 18 districts. Or, there could be 18 individual hearings if every district rejects the proposal. Schlomann said neither of those scenarios is ideal. His main concern is the commission give intense consideration to why the various districts rejected the proposal.

"The commission was not put in place to say 'no'," Schlomann said. "At the same time, I do believe they have some requirements that they have to follow, and I would hope they give our board and other boards of education the benefit of the doubt. We all understand that virtual education, to some degree, is going to be some part of our lives in the future. But this is not the plan that is right way to go about that."

Geneva, Kaneland, Batavia, West Aurora District 129, Elgin Area School District U-46 and Carpentersville Unit District 300 are all nearby districts that have rejected the proposal.

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