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posted: 6/9/2013 8:00 AM

Suburban group takes aim at state charter school commission

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A suburban group wants to get rid of the Illinois State Charter School Commission, which they argue shouldn't be able to overturn decisions made by local school districts.

About 10 members of Northern Illinois Jobs With Justice met Saturday morning at the St. Charles Public Library to kick off a campaign to repeal the legislation that created the commission in late 2011.

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NIJJ spokeswoman Mary Shesgreen exhorted people to meet with their state representatives to push for the initiative.

The commission shouldn't be able to make such decisions because its nine members are appointed, not elected, Shesgreen said. She's planning to meet with state Sen. Mike Noland on Tuesday, she added.

"We want SB 79 rescinded," Shesgreen said. "We have democratically elected school boards, and they represent the will of the people."

Before the commission's creation, charter school applicants could appeal local denials to the Illinois State Board of Education, whose members are also appointed, charter school commission chairman Greg Richmond said.

"There are many, many appointed bodies in this country," he said.

Shesgreen said the group also plans to fight any future attempts by Virtual Learning Solutions to start an online charter school for students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 18 school districts from Algonquin to Plainfield.

Virtual Learning planned to contract with K12 Inc., a leading online curriculum company that manages virtual charter schools in 33 states.

After the plan was rejected by all 18 school boards, Virtual Learning began the appeal process with the charter school commission last month.

Richmond said the commission will vote Tuesday on a recommendation by its executive director, Jeanne Nowaczewski, to deny the appeal.

That recommendation is based on legal analysis of a one-year moratorium on establishing new virtual charter schools signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in late May, Richmond said.

NIJJ members also charged that commission members are pro-charter schools, and not impartial when hearing appeals.

Richmond disputed that by pointing out that most local school board decisions have not been reversed.

Three charter school appeals were approved by ISBE in 15 years, while the commission has approved two out of 11 or so appeals so far, he said.

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