Elgin City Council supports charter schools

Updated 9/25/2014 6:00 PM

After the second spirited debate on the topic in two weeks, the Elgin City Council Wednesday approved a resolution supporting charter schools.

Mayor David Kaptain said he reversed his initial decision in support of that after talking to current and former local and state elected officials.


"In my opinion this resolution is not in the best interest of the city of Elgin," he said.

Councilman Toby Shaw, who proposed the move to the council, said the choice is up to parents. The resolution doesn't name any specific charter schools.

Councilwomen Tish Powell and Rose Martinez held steady in their opposition, leading to a 6-3 vote Wednesday night.

Elgin Area School District U-46 rejected in July an application to open an Elgin Math and Science Academy in Elgin. Although the site is within Community Unit Community Unit District 300, a neighboring school district can approve the application.

Powell equated the city's resolution to a local school district adopting a resolution in support of the city contracting snow removal services.

"Doing this puts us in an adversarial role with not just U-46, but potentially all the school districts that serve our community," she said.

The Alignment Education Initiative is the most appropriate and comprehensive way for the council to examine educational opportunities for residents, Powell said. Earlier this summer, the council approved the initiative, a partnership with U-46, local colleges, community organizations and others to solve educational issues.

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The Illinois State Charter School Commission will hear an appeal filed by the Elgin Charter School Initiative, beginning with a public hearing Tuesday.

Krissy Palermo, a member of the charter school's design team, said more than 320 families are interested in attending the school.

U-46 board member Jennifer Shroder said approving the city's resolution amounted to doing "the political thing."

"My job is to think of all the U-46 kids," she said. "Not just my beloved Elgin, and not just the rich white folks you want to encourage to move to Elgin."

Councilman Terry Gavin pointed out that admission into the charter school would include a lottery system.

"Let's not throw color around anymore tonight," he said, referring to an earlier discussion regarding a police department recruiting trip to Puerto Rico.


Councilman John Steffen, whose wife is involved with the charter group, also took issue with Shroder's statement, saying he visited the homes of some charter school supporters.

"These people are not rich and they are not white, for the most part. These people were living in areas of town that would completely dispel that statement," he said.

After the meeting, Kaptain said the resolution "drives a wedge" between the city and school district U-46.

"District 300 was never really involved in the conversation," Kaptain said. "The city of Elgin is bigger than just U-46, and U46 is bigger than the city of Elgin. I don't think there was a lot of thought put into the resolution."


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