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posted: 5/10/2014 5:01 AM

Keep local control of schools strong

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As superintendents of school districts representing over 213,000 students across Illinois, we are acutely aware of how important it is to have lawmakers in Springfield who are willing to stand up for local control. All too often, the General Assembly approves unfunded mandates that prevent local districts from exercising discretion on their own school budgets and add to our day-to-day responsibilities.

Recent unfunded mandate examples include bills that require districts to include storm shelters in the design of new buildings, to teach the history of organized labor and to require all students to receive training on cardiopulmonary resuscitation. While these bills address important topics, the fact remains that they cost precious resources that Illinois school districts cannot spare, and they impede on local control.

That's why we were pleased that State Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia introduced bipartisan legislation, House Bill 4237, to restrict the ability of the state Charter School Commission to overturn decisions by local elected school boards regarding charter school applications.

From our perspective, local voters, taxpayers and parents in our communities should have the ultimate say on whether or not a new public school (charter) opens in their city. To be sure, charter public schools make sense in some communities and not in others; nevertheless, it ought to be left to local voters to decide.

We know Rep. Chapa LaVia to be an unwavering advocate for education and local control. We were pleased to see the bill survive through a procedural move, and we encourage the bill's new sponsor, Rep. Sandra Pihos, and her bipartisan co-sponsors to move this bill forward. We also urge all General Assembly members to reconsider the bill's intent to protect local control and keep decisions about charter schools where they belong -- in our communities.

Jose M. Torres

Superintendent, Elgin Area School District U-46

and 32 other Illinois superintendents

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