Illinois Doubles its Charter School Cap

Published September 1, 2009

Charter school advocates are applauding the passage of Illinois Senate Bill 612, which doubles the number of charter schools allowed statewide from 60 to 120. It also increases the cap on the number of charter schools permitted within the limits of a city with a population exceeding 500,000, from 30 to 70.

The new law allows Chicago 45 new charter schools, five of which will be reserved for high school dropouts. The rest of the state will get 15 new charter schools. This is good news for the more-than 13,000 students on charter school waiting lists around the state. Additionally, the new law exempts charter schools from any annual cap on new students in alternative certification programs.

Tired of Status Quo

Collin Hitt, director of education policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, said legislators finally had their fill of the status quo.

“Senate Bill 612 passed handily because a consensus had formed that it was time for more charter schools,” Hitt said. “The consensus was formed as a result of outstanding work by charter school advocates and parents as well as outreach from policy organizations.

“Parents like to have as many options and choices for educating their children as possible, and are elated at this development,” Hitt continued. “Urban schools in Illinois face some of the biggest challenges, and the record successes of charter schools in the state prove that more educational choices are a step in the right direction.”

Charter Benefits Were Obvious

Hitt said the success of the state’s charter schools could no longer be ignored. Their graduation rates exceed the averages of other public schools, and more charter school graduates go on to college than non-charter students. Their average attendance is better, and so is their efficiency in the use of funds, Hitt said.

“This is one way Illinois policymakers have effected positive change in the state and on the education system,” Hitt said. “Other states should absolutely follow their lead and allow for more charter schools and choice in their states.

“Hopefully this legislation will pave the way for an increase or a removal of the cap on charter schools across the state,” Hitt added.

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.

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