To the Editor:
In less than a six-month period, Chicago has been hit with two consecutive charter network scandals. The first, involving the United Neighborhood Organization, the biggest charter operator in Illinois, involved allegations of financial improprieties and nepotism. More recently, the decision to approve two new charter schools run by Concept Schools Inc. has come under fire (“Changes May Be Coming to Charters in New York City, Philadelphia,” Charters & Choice blog, Dec. 27, 2013).
One of the hidden culprits in the ongoing saga of charter malfeasance is the Illinois State Charter School Commission, an entity created through a bill signed into law in 2011. The bill mimics language in model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is known for promoting the right-wing legislative objectives of conservative foundations.
The aggressive dismantling and deregulation of publicly funded schools in Chicago is paving the way for future scandals. The lack of accountability and moral hazard represented by the rapid expansion of unaccountable charters has allowed questionable practices to fester. There is a growing need to expose these practices and ensure that tax dollars are being appropriated for the benefit of students and not political cronies.
Our city, state, and federal leaders must act now. They should demand an investigation of existing charter networks and call for a moratorium on charter expansion while we sort out the costs and benefits of charters’ unencumbered proliferation.
Less than a year after massive school closings and record school budget cuts in Chicago we can ill afford to expand charters at the expense of our neighborhood schools.
Chicago Teachers Union
A version of this article appeared in the January 22, 2014 edition of Education Week as Union Official Flags Chicago Charter Scandals