SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich today called on the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to authorize a charter school in Venice. In March of this year, Venice residents voted to close Venice High School, effective at the end of the school year, because of its extreme financial distress. At the time, residents hoped that a charter school could be established to serve the children of Venice. Although regional and local school officials worked continually through the summer to try to establish a charter school, the State Board has yet to approve the proposal - scattering nearly 60 Venice students to other school districts.
“It was very sad for the students of Venice to watch the doors of their high school close. These students deserve the opportunity to go to school in their own community. That’s why I’m calling on the State Board of Education to act quickly to approve a charter school in Venice,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Earlier this year, community and school officials offered up plans to open a new charter school in Venice that would serve the children who attended Venice High. Charter schools are public schools run by nonprofit organizations that are exempted from many of the rules governing traditional public schools, giving them greater flexibility to operate. Officials at the State Board repeatedly refused to approve plans for a charter school, submitted by the Madison County Regional Office of Education, despite numerous changes to the plans made at the request of State Board staff.
Since Venice High School closed, its former students have enrolled in a number of neighboring districts including East St. Louis School District, Brooklyn School District, and Madison School District. Venice school officials also believe some families opted to home-school their children in the absence of a local high school.
“Venice is a community that is committed to education. The parents there wanted a charter school, and local school officials have worked hard to get one. The State Board must partner with the community to move forward,” said the Governor. “The situation in Venice is an example of why we needed new leadership, a new direction, and real accountability for the Board.”
In September, Governor Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 3000, restructuring the Illinois State Board of Education and named seven new members to ISBE. The new membership and sweeping reform instill new accountability at the State Board and shift the focus from just regulating school districts to improving education of students in Illinois. The Board appointed Interim Superintendent Randy Dunn to lead the agency on September 20.