Elgin council members endorse charter schools
Elgin council members cast their initial support for charter schools -- and asked local legislators to do the same -- but stopped short of endorsing a pending initiative to create a charter school in town.
Councilman Toby Shaw sparked Wednesday's committee of the whole discussion by asking fellow council members to support charter schools and the Elgin Math and Science Academy, which the Elgin Charter School Initiative wants to open in fall 2015.
The Elgin Area School District U-46 board rejected the charter school's application in July. The Illinois State Charter School Commission will hear an appeal filed by the group, beginning with a public hearing Sept. 30.
"U-46 can't be all things to all people, private schools can't be all things to all people. But maybe charter schools are another option for people in Elgin," Shaw said.
Councilman John Steffen, whose wife is involved with the Elgin charter school initiative, agreed.
"This is an opportunity for teachers to be freed from bureaucracy and try some innovative methods," he said.
A majority of council members, however, said that while they support charter schools, it wasn't appropriate to support any one specific charter school.
"We want to endorse baseball but we're not going to pick a team," Councilman John Prigge said.
Councilwomen Tish Powell and Rose Martinez voted against the resolution.
Martinez said the city shouldn't weigh in on charter schools unless directly involved in matters such as zoning.
Powell said it would be inappropriate for the city to insert itself into matters under the school district's authority. Mayor David Kaptain agreed.
The charter school group proposes opening the school on the site of the former Fox River Country Day School at 1600 Dundee Ave. owned by the city of Elgin.
The site "is a beautiful historic natural location that is uniquely suited to our school," Schock said.
In late May, the Elgin City Council approved spending about $647,000 to replace the roofs of three buildings on the campus, but also directed staff to issue a second requests for proposals for the site.
Those proposals are due Thursday.
Alternate sites are Highland Christian Academy at 2250 W. Highland Ave. and Good Shepherd, 1111 Van St., and the Rakow Center School at 515 Sports Way, which closed earlier this summer, Schock said. All are in Elgin.
The Fox River Country Day site would accommodate the school permanently, but the other sites would only be temporary due to their size, Schock said.
The state commission will hold a public hearing about the Elgin charter school proposal at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 30 in the auditorium of Larkin High School, 1475 Larkin Ave. in Elgin.
The commission's staff and experts are expected to make their recommendations at a commission meeting at 1 p.m. Oct. 23 at 160 N. LaSalle St. in Chicago, Schock said.
The commission is expected to cast its vote at a meeting at 3 p.m. Oct 28 at Noble Street College Prep, 1010 Noble St. in Chicago, she said.