Emotions high with proposed charter-limiting bills in Illinois

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hundreds of protesters filled the rotunda of the Illinois State Capitol on Tuesday denouncing nearly a dozen bills that would curb the growth of charter schools—the latest scuffle over expansion of the independently run public schools, which are spreading nationwide.

The Illinois legislature is considering 11 bills that would, among other things, limit where charter schools can be located, ban them from marketing themselves to students, and abolish a commission that has the power to overrule local school boards and grant charter licenses. The skirmish follows recent charter flare-ups in Massachusetts, Tennessee and New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got into a standoff over the schools.

Teachers unions often oppose charters—funded by taxpayers but run by independent groups—because they typically hire nonunion workers and, labor leaders argue, drain money from struggling traditional public schools. Proponents say charter schools offer parents a choice and are free to adopt innovations such as instituting a longer school day and year, or laying off teachers based strictly on performance.

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