The charter school battle in New York is mostly over for now, having resulted in a decisive victory for charter advocates, but the next front may be in Illinois, where a number of anti-charter bills are currently being debated in the state legislature. Over the past few weeks, the Illinois House has been considering bills that would prevent charter schools from opening in many communities and placing limits on charters’ marketing and administrative spending, among many other changes.The most consequential of these changes is a bill that would shut down the Charter School Commission, a three-year old body which can overrule local districts’ rejection of charter school applications. Although there hasn’t yet been a vote, teacher’s unions and other anti-charter groups think that these bills have a shot, given that Illinois is a more favorable environment than New York.Charter proponents have pointed out that the measures would disproportionately harm minority communities. As the WSJ reports:
Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, said this year’s legislative session is the “worst session for charter schools in the history of Illinois” and said passage of the bills could be the “death knell” for charter expansion. “These bills…weaken the communities that charter schools serve, which, in Illinois, are mainly African-American and Latino.”
Others worry that success in Illinois could lend momentum to the anti-charter movement nationwide:
Nina Rees, the group’s president, said charters’ rapid growth makes them a prime target for opponents, and she worries that a “union win” in Illinois could “embolden” those in other states. “It could send a message that if they [unions] gather enough momentum and coalesce, they can win,” she said.
The more immediate question, however, is whether the Governor will support the bills if they pass. Governor Pat Quinn, who is up for reelection this year, has been somewhat supportive of charters during his tenure, backing the creation of the Charter School Commission three years ago and signing other pro-charter legislation more recently. But he has been relatively quiet about the bills currently making their way through the House. Some believe he will not oppose all of these bills.Governor Quinn won’t be able to remain quiet for long. His opponent, Republican Bruce Rauner, is an outspoken supporter of charter schools who actually sits on the board of a charter school network and has made opposition to public sector unions a centerpiece of his campaign. If any of these bills make their way to Quinn’s desk, he will need to decide whether to sign them and placate his union base, which is already angry at him for cutting pension benefits, or veto the bills and deny his opponent an issue in the campaign.Either way, his choice will have a significant impact on a close race in one of the biggest blue civil war states in the country.