CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to improve fairness and accountability in the student selection process, governance and funding of charter schools throughout Illinois. The reform legislation sets new standards of transparency for charter schools, which receive public funds but operate independently. Today’s action is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to give every child the opportunity for a high quality education and also make Illinois’ government more accountable, transparent and effective.
“Every child deserves access to a good school,” Governor Quinn said. “With this new law, the public will now have more information and more say in how charter schools operate and spend public funds.”
House Bill 3232, sponsored by State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) and State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), helps to improve transparency and accountability in Illinois’ charter schools. Under the new law, when more students apply to a charter school than the school has available spots, a lottery will be held to select which students may enroll. The new law requires the lottery process to be videotaped and made publicly available. It also requires the local governing body, usually the school district, to be involved in the process to strengthen accountability. Charter schools must also now submit quarterly financial statements and their waiting lists of students hoping to enroll.
The bill also requires that a governing board, independent of the organization that manages the school, be established to oversee each charter school. This provision is intended to prevent any potential conflicts of interest in the operation of the charter school. The law also includes new protections of public funds, including the return of any unspent funds and remaining property to the local school district or the State Board of Education if a charter school closes. In addition, charter and traditional schools must now include a disclaimer when public funds are used for marketing purposes. The new law is effective for the 2015-2016 school year.
"I am glad we were able to bring the proponents and opponents of the bill to the table and strike an agreement in order to provide a better educational environment for parents, students and taxpayers,” Representative Welch said. "This legislation is about accountability and ensuring that public resources are used in a responsible manner. This bill helps to guarantee that the state resources earmarked for the classroom are protected and spent in the classroom, so our investments are best serving education in Illinois."
“Inaccessible procedures, ethically questionable activities and policies that limit families’ fair access to taxpayer-funded schools have no place in public education,” Senator Collins said. “Innovation in education does not require secrecy. I am pleased to stand with those in the charter school movement who understand and embrace their responsibility to the public.”
In 2011, Governor Quinn signed legislation that established an independent charter school commission that is dedicated to school reform and has the power to authorize, regulate and increase academic and financial accountability of charter schools throughout the state. Also in 2011, the Governor worked to pass a landmark education reform package that has made Illinois a model for the nation. In 2012, Governor Quinn signed a law that empowers parents by providing them with a detailed report card on their children's school and school district.