State Supreme Court decision means victory for Grayslake charter school
The Illinois Supreme Court has rejected Woodland Elementary District 50's final attempt to continue a legal fight that could have led to the closure of Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake.
The supreme court posted its decision Wednesday, stating it will not review the Illinois appeals court's December ruling that dealt a loss to Woodland's case seeking to overturn a state commission's decision that granted another five-year charter to the choice school.
Prairie Crossing, which is within the boundaries of District 50 and Fremont Elementary District 79 in the Mundelein area, can now operate through 2018-19.
Prairie Crossing Executive Director Geoff Deigan said Thursday he appreciated parents and others who stood behind the school during the dispute. He said the school has incurred at least $150,000 in legal bills in the case.
Deigan said Woodland's suit created an unnecessary cloud over Prairie Crossing for almost two years when parents sought to enroll their children there.
"I would say the majority of the questions, outside of the scope of what we do in the classroom, for prospective parents was, 'How's the lawsuit going? Are you guys even going to be open?'" he said.
District 50 board President Chris Schrantz issued a statement regarding the decision and said board members are appreciative of the support they received from the District 50 community.
"As elected officials entrusted with the responsibility for the educational quality and fiscal stability of public education in our community, it is the duty of the Board of Education to advocate for students and schools by seeking a resolution of this matter by the state's highest court," Schrantz said.
Woodland's estimated legal tab was $212,281 for work on the case from June 2014 to March, spokeswoman Jennifer Tempest Bova 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 agency erred in its decision. That ruling was overturned in December by First District Appellate Court justices Nathaniel Howse Jr., Cynthia Cobbs and David Ellis.
Open since 1999, Prairie Crossing's environmentally focused curriculum includes outdoor teaching and trash-free lunches.
Woodland has been at odds with the 432-student capacity charter school over money for several years. Court documents show Woodland 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.
Deigan said the case strictly was about money for Woodland.
"This was a frivolous lawsuit by Woodland and an attempt by them to get additional state money to help triage their mismanaged budgets in some fashion," he said. "I don't think this was ever anything more than a financial move on Woodland's part."
Along with Prairie Crossing, Woodland sued the charter school commission and the Illinois State Board of Education.