Individual hearings set for District 300, others in virtual charter school appeal

CARPENTERSVILLE – A state commission’s recent decision to grant individual appeal hearings for all Fox Valley school districts affected by a proposed virtual charter school was in response to a misunderstanding, said the commission’s chairman.

Representatives from the 18 school districts that stand to lose tax dollars with the proposed Illinois Virtual Charter School at Fox River Valley attended an Illinois State Charter School Commission meeting Wednesday in Chicago to oppose an apparent recommendation from commissioners that would have lumped the districts into a group appeal hearing.

The districts’ reaction to the apparent recommendation surprised Chairman Greg Richmond, who said that the districts seemed to be reacting to a decision that was not yet made.

“There was some uncertainty by the districts on what we were proposing,” Richmond said. “I think some people thought some of the decisions were already made.”

Commissioners met last week to outline the structure and timeline of the appeal process nearly a month after all 18 districts, including Carpentersville-based District 300, rejected the proposed charter school.

The school is proposed by the nonprofit Virtual Learning Solutions. Local districts’ funds – estimated at up to $8,000 a student – would be siphoned off for each student who leaves brick-and-mortar buildings to attend the virtual school.

The nonprofit finished filing its appeals, which included a request for a consolidated hearing, Tuesday.

District representatives spoke during the meeting to protest an apparent written recommendation made by Richmond that supported a consolidated hearing. In it, Richmond states a consolidated appeal is appropriate partly because 18 individual hearings would be duplicative and strain public resources.

But he later told the Northwest Herald that the document contained the standard heading that lists his name used on all of the commission’s meeting items. The template likely caused confusion, he said.

In reality, the commission was meeting to consider a proposal made by the commission’s executive director, Richmond said.

The commission consequently decided against the recommendation after public comment. Instead of a group hearing, the commission will conduct 18 hearings scheduled for June 19, 20, 21 and 24. The districts also will have time beforehand to respond to Virtual Learning’s formal appeal.

“The commission listened to the public comment at our meeting and adopted a plan that treats all parties fairly and individually,” Richmond said.

District 300 welcomed the commission’s plan to hear each district make its case against Virtual Learning’s appeal.

The commission has decided only two charter school appeals in its history. A final decision from the commission is expected by July 16.

“Each of us has unique academic programs, financial situations, demographics, online learning options, community concerns and presence – or lack thereof – charter schools,” District 300 spokeswoman Allison Strupeck said. “We each deserved to have our individual concerns considered separately and thoughtfully by the state commission.”

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