District 50 taking Grayslake charter fight to Illinois Supreme Court

 
 
Updated 2/3/2016 5:20 PM
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  • Woodland Elementary District 50 in Gurnee is turning to the Illinois Supreme Count in its legal fight against Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.

    Woodland Elementary District 50 in Gurnee is turning to the Illinois Supreme Count in its legal fight against Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake. Daily Herald file photo

Woodland Elementary District 50 in Gurnee is turning to the Illinois Supreme Count in its legal fight against Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.

In the wake of a loss dealt by an Illinois appeals court in December, District 50 issued a statement Wednesday that officials will seek supreme court review to continue a lawsuit challenging whether Prairie Crossing should be allowed to remain open.

District 50 went to Cook County circuit court in 2014 in an effort to overturn a state commission's decision granting another five-year charter to the Grayslake choice school that allows it to operate through 2018-19. Prairie Crossing is within the boundaries of Woodland and Fremont Elementary District 79 in the Mundelein area.

Although District 50 prevailed when a Cook County judge issued a ruling that would have forced Prairie Crossing to close, that decision was overturned by an appellate court. Now, the district wants the state supreme court to take the case and render a decision.

"We believe it is our responsibility to advocate for our students and schools by seeking a review of this matter by our state's highest court," the District 50 school board said, in part, in an open letter to parents Wednesday.

Prairie Crossing Executive Director Geoff Deigan said he was not surprised to learn District 50 will seek a supreme court review of the case.

"I think from Day 1, the (charter) school has been convinced there is no merit to their lawsuit and we'll ride it out as long as we need to," Deigan said.

District 50 alleged in the May 2014 lawsuit that Prairie Crossing should not have been allowed to stay open because it violated its last five-year charter approval in 2009 by not increasing student diversity as directed. A month before the suit, Illinois State Charter School Commission members voted 5-4 to renew Prairie Crossing through 2018-19.

In March 2015, Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Allen sided with District 50, ruling the state agency erred in its decision. That ruling was overturned by First District Appellate Court justices Nathaniel Howse Jr., Cynthia Cobbs and David Ellis.

Woodland did not have the right to seek a reversal of the state charter school commission's decision because the district was not part of the Prairie Crossing renewal hearing, the justices wrote. They also wrote Woodland's decision to sue over the commission's decision was not allowed under the state's charter schools law.

Open since 1999, Prairie Crossing has had an environmentally focused curriculum that includes outdoor teaching and trash-free lunches.

District 50 has been at odds with the 432-student capacity charter school over money for several years. Court documents show the district was required to send $2.8 million in state aid to pay for 309 children who enrolled at Prairie Crossing in the 2013-14 academic year.

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