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CUSD 200 asks for families' help in rejecting virtual charter school proposal

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2013 4:04 p.m. CDT

WHEATON – In a letter to Community Unit School District 200 families, Superintendent Brian Harris has asked for their help in upholding the school board's decision to reject a proposed online charter school that would serve students in the district.

The proposal for the online charter school from Virtual Learning Solutions was rejected this month by 18 area school districts.

According to CUSD 200's letter, the district's Board of Education rejected the proposal for various reasons including questions about the rigor of the academic program, student results on achievement exams and lack of compliance with laws governing charter schools. However, Virtual Learning Solutions is seeking to appeal local school boards' decisions to the Illinois Charter School Commission based on the traditional educational system's ability to embrace alternative forms of education, according to CUSD 200.

Charter schools in Illinois must be approved by local school boards. However, these schools may appeal to the commission, which has the power to overturn school boards' decisions, according to the district's letter. It is operated by the Illinois State Board of Education.

In its letter, the district says it is "committed to providing a 21st century learning environment that meet the needs of the individual learner."

The district is asking families to contact state Senate President John Cullerton and their state senator to ask them to support a House bill, HB 494, that would place a one-year moratorium on the establishment of new virtual schools, allowing state leaders to gather additional information before potentially approving online schools.

The bill has passed the House and is expected to be voted on by the Senate soon, possibly this week, according to the district's letter.

Funding for an online charter school in the area would come from local taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to CUSD 200, according to the district. The proposal from Virtual Learning Solutions would give $8,000 to the online school for every CUSD 200 student who enrolls there. If a student leaves the online school, the funds still will remain with Virtual Learning Solutions, according to the district.

K12 Inc. is the for-profit company contracted to run the online charter school. CUSD 200 officials said they have concerns about the online school's curriculum, quality of teachers, teacher-student ratios, support for students with special needs, low test scores, lack of extracurricular opportunities and graduation rate, based on K12 Inc.'s previous performance. Also, if students enroll in the virtual school, they will be ineligible to participate in any extracurricular activities in the district.

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