Delaying Virtual Charter Schools

School District 204 Superintendent Dr. Kathy Birkett sent a letter to thousands of parents, urging them to contact their state senators and ask them to support House Bill 494, which calls for a one-year moratorium on the creation of any virtual charter schools.

“Right now all the rules and regulations in Springfield are written for bricks and mortar schools, not a virtual school,” said Birkett. “Virtual is an entirely different duck.”

“The concept of a moratorium sort of gives us a quick pause button and that gives us time to sit down and address what really are some of the issues here,” said Darlene Senger, Illinois State Representative for the 41st District, which includes portions of Naperville.

In March, representatives from the for-profit company K-12 stood before the district 203 and 204 school boards, presenting their proposal to create a virtual charter school in partnership with the not-for-profit Virtual Learning Solutions.

Both districts, as well as 16 other suburban districts, voted against their plan.

“They were not prepared to answer any questions and sent us someone who was very inexperienced,” said District 203 Board Member Suzyn Price. “Quite frankly, our staff spent more time responding to the application than they spent preparing the application and it says something about their work ethic.”

But Virtual Learning Solutions and K-12 could appeal to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, who could overturn the decisions of local boards. If that happens, all districts involved would have to pay $8,000 for each of their students that enrolled in the virtual classroom.

“This is a huge financial hit potentially and so I think that’s one of the reasons it was so important to our board and for the other 17 boards to turn it down,” said Birkett.

“These are people not from our community sitting on that commission and they are not aware of what our goals are, our mission, our values and our investment in education,” said Price.

Both Birkett and District 203 Superintendent Dan Bridges went to Springfield recently, trying to lobby for House Bill 494.

The charter school moratorium bill has passed through the Illinois House of Representatives and now must go through the State Senate.

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