In November 2010, the Illinois State Board of Education took virtual control of one of the worst school districts in the state, North Chicago School District 187.
One of the smart ways state officials planned to boost academic performance: Invite a top charter operator, LEARN Charter School Networks, to build an elementary school at a former Naval Station Great Lakes training facility. LEARN operates five charter elementary school campuses in Chicago, all in low-income neighborhoods. Four of them beat Chicago Public School averages on state tests in the last school year.
In District 187, just 15 percent of 11th graders tested at or above grade level in math in 2010, when the state took control. The numbers were even worse in reading: 10.9 percent hit standards.
You'd expect the North Chicago school board members to welcome a quality charter operator like LEARN. You'd expect them to grab the chance for some 500 of the district's nearly 4,000 students to gain a better education.
Nope. This month, the North Chicago board rejected the LEARN application by a 4-2 vote. Board members said they feared that the charter would siphon too much money from the district's other schools.