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updated: 7/23/2014 11:40 AM

Elgin charter school group to appeal U-46 rejection

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  • Supporters of the proposed Elgin charter school made their opinions known at the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board meeting Monday.

       Supporters of the proposed Elgin charter school made their opinions known at the Elgin Area School District U-46 school board meeting Monday.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer


The group proposing an Elgin charter school says it will appeal Elgin Area School District U-46's decision to deny its charter application with the state.

The U-46 school board voted 6-1 against the proposal Monday.

The charter group has 30 days to appeal with the Illinois State Charter School Commission. By statute, the state must conduct a public hearing on the appeal within 45 days and render its decision within 30 days after the hearing.

"We're going to be working with the Illinois Network of Charter Schools and an attorney," said Kerry Kelly, vice president of the Elgin Charter School Initiative. "We are looking at (filing) toward the end of the 30 days. The INCS thinks we have a strong chance on appeal. We've looked at some case law. I think we have a very strong case."

Kelly said the appeal will look a lot like the response the group filed after a U-46 committee recommended the charter's denial last month.

Kelly said she was hopeful a few more votes would swing in the group's favor as some school board members were on the fence leading up to Monday night's meeting.

"We put a lot of effort into reaching out to them," she said. "I guess we weren't surprised."

Kelly said the financial impact on U-46 alone is not a good reason to deny a charter.

The charter school is asking U-46 to contribute $8,115 per student, which includes educational and operational costs. Yet, it's more than twice what the district spends for general education students in grades 1-6, according to district officials.

Finances aside, some U-46 school board members didn't like the idea of the charter school targeting primarily Elgin students, even though charter schools must be open to all school district residents.

Group leaders said that's because eight of 10 U-46 schools under restructuring are in Elgin.

Yet, applications for the charter school's lottery would be open to the entire district, group officials said.

"We are not creating boundaries," Kelly said. "Everyone is welcome to attend the school."

Kelly said there is no reason U-46 could not open additional charter schools in other parts of the district modeled after this one, if successful.

The group proposes opening the Elgin Math and Science Academy on the site of the Fox River Country Day School, 1600 Dundee Ave., owned by the city of Elgin. Though the site falls within the boundaries of Community Unit District 300, the charter school's students must come from within the boundaries of the school district approving the application, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

Kelly said the charter design team has not considered approaching another school district for the charter approval since its target audience is students from Elgin.

"We want to reassure the families in U-46 that we're going to continue to advocate for them and bring this exciting, innovative option to U-46," Kelly said. "We heard at the public hearing over and over they want change, they want options, they want high-quality choices."

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