I attended the special U-46 board meeting June 23 to hear the Elgin Charter School Initiative proposal. The team of 12 devoted U-46 residents who made the proposal spoke for about 45 minutes and then took the board's questions, followed by 18 individuals' comments.
The board's questions were answered thoughtfully and respectfully by the ECSI team. The focus was on collaboration with U-46, not competing with it. It was about choice for at-risk Elgin students.
The questions the board asked concerning the roughly $1.3 million that would be used for funding through U-46 were very detailed. This funding represents less than three-tenths of a percent of the over $500 million budget. Ironically, when the U-46 budget review is proposed, and requests for questions are asked of board members, rarely is a question raised. In most cases you can hear crickets. If only they had that much interest when they are taking taxpayer money as when their stash is being taken.
Of the 18 individual speakers, 13 favored the charter school and five opposed it. Of the 13 who were asking U-46 to proceed, all but one were parents and taxpayers in Elgin. The other gentleman had moved to Elgin from Washington, D.C., and had seen firsthand the marvelous improvements made there with charter schools.
The five speakers against the ECSI were all teachers, former teachers and the Elgin teachers union president. You get the picture.
The board's decision is set for July 21. They can reach a partnership with collaboration and move the project forward, with choice for at-risk children in Elgin, or put a barrier up that leads to another step, which involves the Illinois State Board of Education. The right decision was very apparent at this meeting. We'll see how much listening the U-46 board did.