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Historically, charter school funding falls short

Not until Springfield enacted a statewide funding reform in 2017 were charter schools finally granted operational funding equity.

charter school funding
Students from Amandla Charter School in Englewood rally outside Chicago school board headquarters in 2015 in an effort to convince the board not to close their school
Rich Hein/Sun-Times

We at the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) share the Chicago Sun-Times’ position that a teachers strike would be damaging to the hard-won academic gains of recent years (Take the deal, teachers. You’ve won — Wednesday).

In its otherwise strong editorial, however, the Sun-Times gets one crucial fact wrong, stating that neighborhood schools “languished for years while selective schools and charters received more than a fair share of funding.” With respect to charter public schools, this is demonstrably wrong.

Charter public schools have historically been underfunded in Illinois. Not until Springfield enacted a statewide funding reform in 2017 were charter schools finally granted operational funding equity.

Even with that law, charter public schools are required to pay for their own facilities costs, a burden not faced by district-run schools.

Twenty years of financial inequity and three consecutive years of budget cuts forced many charter public schools to take on significant short- and long-term debt, forcing schools to divert operating dollars from classrooms to pay for capital needs.

This has directly impacted students. Charter public schools also do not have access to the capital markets Chicago Public Schools (CPS) does and are largely left to fend for themselves to address facilities ongoing needs. Despite these challenges, charter public schools continue to send students to and through college at increasing rates.

Charter schools are public neighborhood schools, and more than 57,000 Chicago students choose to attend them. We are a proud part of the Chicago Public Schools system and will continue our work to create brighter futures for CPS students.

Andrew Broy, president, Illinois Network of Charter Schools

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Suburbs dependent on coal hurt kids, climate

The Youth Climate Strike has underscored the concern of many for the future of the planet.

This concern is rooted in the constant deluge of concerning news regarding the harmful impacts of human activity on the planet and the positive feedback loops that threaten to accelerate the decline of the natural systems that sustain life on Earth, including human life.

It is clear that urgent action is needed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change and to set a path forward for a more sustainable future.

Interestingly, the western suburbs of Chicago exemplify the significant local roadblocks that prevent us from meaningfully moving forward.

Naperville, St. Charles, Batavia and Geneva are locked into contracts that mandate their electricity come from climate and health-destroying coal. The Faustian bargain these communities made through their electric agencies is potentially catastrophic for several reasons.

First, these contracts often exclude or limit “power purchase agreements” that directly discourage citizens from using their personal resources to install renewable energy sources like rooftop solar.

Second, the energy contracts to which they are beholden financially disincentive them from supporting legislation to address the threat of climate change on the scale that is necessary.

Third, with data indicating that poor and minority households are more likely to bear the burden of a warming planet, the inability or unwillingness of affluent communities to meet their societal obligations is a form of environmental injustice that will exacerbate health disparities and augment the suffering of vulnerable communities.

In effect, this is nothing short of environmental racism and it is unacceptable.

Undoubtedly, addressing these economic perversions will be challenging, but existential crises require urgency from our political leaders. With the support of Springfield, these municipalities must find fossil fuel-free solutions to their energy needs.

The youth of the world have called on all of us to act.

We owe it to ourselves and future generations to break free of our parochial concerns and to act with urgency to meet the challenges before us.

Dr. Robert M. Sargis, associate professor, University of Illinois at Chicago