Fate of charter appeal uncertain

When Gov. Pat Quinn signed a one-year moratorium on the establishment of new virtual charter schools into law, suburban administrators expected an end to the appeal process currently under way for one such school.

But that might not be the case.

The Illinois State Charter School Commission is tasked with reviewing appeals from charter school applicants denied by local school boards. It set an appeal timeline earlier this month for a virtual charter school that would serve students in kindergarten through 12th grade in 18 districts from Algonquin to Plainfield.

According to that timeline, 11 districts were supposed to respond to the appeal by Tuesday, with the remaining seven due in the next week. That deadline, at least, has been postponed as the charter school commission decides what to do.

“We are seeking the advice of our general counsel, and the commission will have a decision sometime this week,” Executive Director Jeanne Nowaczewski said.

The final decision about the charter school itself was expected by late July after interviews and public hearings.

Attorneys representing Virtual Learning Solutions argue the commission should continue its work as planned because the moratorium doesn't specifically mention what should happen to pending appeals.

“This issue is not clear-cut by any means,” Holland & Knight attorney Elisa Westapher said in an email to Nowaczewski and school district administrators.

Suburban school officials argue the original timeline became moot when Quinn signed the moratorium into law Friday.

Brian Crowley is an attorney with Franczek Radelet, which represents four school districts included in the virtual school proposal — Elgin Area School District U-46, Carpentersville-based Community Unit District 300, Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 and Plainfield School District 202.

In an email to Nowaczewski on Friday and in another on Tuesday, Crowley requested the commission dismiss the appeal immediately.

“The governor's action and the General Assembly's approval of this law makes it very clear that no further taxpayer resources should be spent on considering a virtual charter school until after April 1, 2014,” Crowley said.

Aurora Rep. Linda Chapa La Via is the original sponsor for the moratorium. She said earlier this month if it got final approval the moratorium would stop the appeal process for the virtual school.

At this point, attorneys and school officials are waiting to find out if what was intended has become law.

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Official text of the one-year moratorium

From April 1, 2013 through April 1, 2014, there is a moratorium on the establishment of charter schools with virtual-schooling components in school districts ... [outside of Chicago]. This moratorium does not apply to a charter school with virtual-schooling components existing or approved prior to April 1, 2013 or to the renewal of the charter of a charter school with virtual-schooling components already approved prior to April 1, 2013.

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