Illinois

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Illinois

1996
Year Charter School Law Was Enacted
143
Estimated Number of Charter Schools in 2016-17
65,500
Estimated Number of Charter School Students in 2016-17
130
out of
240
Total Score

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While Illinois’ law provides an appellate process for charter public school applicants rejected by local school districts and a fair amount of autonomy and accountability, it contains caps on charter school growth and provides inequitable funding to charter schools.

Illinois’ law needs major work in several areas—most significantly, ensuring equitable operational funding and equitable access to capital funding and facilities, ensuring transparency regarding educational service providers, and strengthening accountability for full-time virtual charter schools.

Component Scores

Are there caps on the growth of charter schools in this state?

Illinois law contains a limit of 120 charter schools, with a maximum of 75 in Chicago and 45 in the rest of the state. It reserves five of the charters in Chicago for drop-out recovery schools. There are currently 61 charter schools open in Illinois - 47 in Chicago (including two drop-out recovery charter schools) and 14 in the rest of the state.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
1A
No numeric or geographic limits are placed on the number of charter public schools or students.
Some
1B
If caps exist, there is room for growth.

Are a variety of charter schools allowed?

Illinois law allows new start-ups and public school conversions.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
2A
New startups.
Yes
2B
Public school conversions.

Are non-district authorizers available to which charter applicants may directly apply?

Illinois law allows local school boards to serve as authorizers. In addition, a charter school applicant may apply to the State Charter School Commission if: 1) it is denied by the local school board first; 2) in the case of a charter school proposed to be jointly authorized by two or more school districts, the local school boards unanimously deny the charter school proposal with a statement that the local school boards are not opposed to the charter school, but that they yield to the Commission in light of the complexities of joint administration.
The law also requires a local school board, whenever petitioned to do so by 5% or more of the voters of a school district or districts identified in a charter school proposal, to submit to the voters at a regularly scheduled election the question of whether a new charter school shall be established. The law provides that if the majority of voters approve the referendum, the State Charter School Commission must enter into a contract with the charter school.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
3A
The state allows an applicant anywhere in the state to apply directly to a non-district authorizer(s).

Is an authorizer and overall program accountability system required?

Every odd-numbered year, the law requires all authorizers to submit a report to the state board of education that includes the authorizer’s strategic vision for chartering and process toward achieving that vision, the academic and financial performance of all operating charter schools, the status of the authorizer’s charter school portfolio, and the authorizing functions provided to the charter schools including operating costs and expenses as detailed in annual audited financial statements.
Every two years, the law requires the state charter school commission to provide to the state board of education and local school boards a report on best practices in charter school authorizing, including without limitation evaluating applications, oversight of charters, and renewal of charter schools.

Every even-numbered year (not every year), the state board of education must issue a report to the General Assembly and the Governor containing the aggregate findings from the authorizer reports, information comparing charter school performance with that of traditional schools similarly situated, a review of the regulations and policies from which charter schools are exempted, and suggestions.

Based on this information and their on-going monitoring of both schools and authorizers, the state board of education has the power to remove the power to authorize from any authorizer in the state and, as needed, revoke the chronically low-performing charter schools approved by that authorizer.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
4A
Registration process for school boards to affirm their interest in authorizing.
N/A
4B
Application process for other eligible authorizing entities (except a state charter schools commission).
Yes
4C
Authorizer submission of annual report.
Yes
4D
The ability for the state to conduct a review of an authorizer’s performance.
Yes
4E
The ability for the state to sanction an authorizer for poor performance, including suspending an authorizer’s authority to approve new schools.
Yes
4F
Periodic formal evaluation of overall state charter school program and outcomes.

Is there adequate authorizer funding?

Illinois law allows the State Charter School Commission to charge up to 3% of the revenues provided to its approved schools. It does not contain a similar provision for school district authorizers.
The law requires the state board of education’s periodic report on charter schools to detail the authorizing functions that authorizers provided to their charter schools, including operating costs and expenses as detailed in annual audited financial statements.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
5A
A uniform statewide formula that guarantees annual authorizer funding that is not subject to annual legislative appropriations.
Yes
5B
Requirement to publicly report detailed authorizer expenditures.
No
5C
Separate contract for any services purchased from an authorizer by a school.
No
5D
Prohibition on authorizers requiring schools to purchase services from them.

Are there transparent charter application, review, and decisionmaking processes?

Illinois law provides application elements for all schools. Illinois law provides additional application elements specific to conversion schools.
The law requires authorizers to set a public hearing within 45 days of receipt of application and to determine a decision within 30 days of the public hearing in a public forum. However, it does not require authorizers to conduct an in-person interview of each applicant.

The law does not include application approval criteria. However, the law establishes that authorizers must give priority to those schools demonstrating a high level of community support with rigorous levels of expected pupil achievement and designed to enroll a high percentage of at-risk students.

Under Illinois law, reports of denials, revocations or non-renewals must consist of the charter proposal or current charter contract voted upon by the authorizers. The law requires local school board authorizers to send a copy of each board's resolution setting forth the board's action and its reasons for the action to the state board of education and the State Charter School Commission.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
6A
Application elements for all schools.
Yes
6B
Additional application elements specific to conversion schools.
No
6C
Additional application elements specific to using educational service providers.
No
6D
Additional application elements specific to replications.
Some
6E
Requirement for thorough evaluation of each application, including an in-person interview and a public meeting.
No
6F
Application approval criteria.
Yes
6G
All charter approval or denial decisions made in a public meeting with authorizers stating reasons for denials in writing.

Are performance-based charter contracts required?

Illinois law provides that a certified charter proposal constitutes a binding contract and agreement between the charter school and a local school board under the terms of which the local school board authorizes the governing body of the charter school to operate the charter school, including the roles, powers, and responsibilities of the charter school and the pupil performance standards to be achieved by the charter school. But such contracts are not required to be separate contracts signed by both legal parties, are not required to define the roles, powers, and responsibilities of authorizers, and are not required to define academic and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.
Illinois law provides that a charter be granted for five years.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
7A
Being created as a separate document from the application and executed by the governing board of the charter school and the authorizer.
Some
7B
Defining the roles, powers, and responsibilities for the school and its authorizer.
Some
7C
Defining academic, financial, and operational performance expectations by which the school will be judged based on a performance framework.
Yes
7D
Providing an initial term of five operating years.

Are there comprehensive charter school monitoring and data collection processes?

The law requires authorizers to submit a bi-annual report regarding their schools to the state board of education.
The law requires charter schools to submit annual audits of their financial and administrative operations as conducted by an independent auditor. In addition if deemed necessary for proper financial oversight of the charter school, the law allows an authorizer to require quarterly financial statements from each charter school.

Illinois law specifically states the powers of authorizers to include the monitoring and oversight of charter schools.

The law requires authorizers to notify a charter school subject to revocation in writing of the reason why the charter is subject to revocation. It requires the charter school to submit a written plan to the authorizer to rectify the problem, which must include a timeline for implementation not to exceed two years or the date of the charter's expiration, whichever is earlier.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
8A
Required annual school performance reports.
Yes
8B
Financial accountability for charter schools (e.g., generally accepted accounting principles, independent annual audit reported to authorizer).
Yes
8C
Authorizer authority to conduct oversight activities.
Yes
8D
Authorizer notification to its schools of perceived problems, with opportunities to remedy such problems.
Yes
8E
Authorizer authority to take appropriate corrective actions or exercise sanctions short of revocation.
No
8F
Authorizer may not request duplicative data submission from its charter schools and may not use performance framework to create cumbersome reporting requirements.

Are there clear processes for renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions?

Illinois law requires charter schools to submit a renewal proposal to its authorizer.
The law allows a charter to be revoked for committing a material violation of any of the conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter, failing to meet or make reasonable progress toward achievement of the content standards or pupil performance standards identified in the charter, failing to meet generally accepted standards of fiscal management, or violating any provision of law from which the charter school was not exempted. The law provides that renewals can be made for up to 10 years depending on authorizer’s assessment of charter school’s performance. However, the law provides that charter schools authorized by the state commission may only be renewed in terms up to 5 years in length.

In the case of revocation, the law requires the authorizer to notify the charter school in writing of the reason why the charter is subject to revocation. It requires the charter school to submit a written plan to the authorizer to rectify the problem, which must include a timeline for implementation not to exceed two years or the date of the charter's expiration, whichever is earlier.

If the authorizer finds that the charter school has failed to implement the plan of remediation and adhere to the timeline, the law requires it to revoke the charter. Except in situations of an emergency where the health, safety, or education of the charter school's students is at risk, the law provides that the revocation must take place at the end of a school year. The law allows a charter authorized by a local school board to appeal the board’s notice of their decision to revoke or not renew a charter to the State Charter School Commission, whose decisions are subject to judicial review.

Under Illinois law, reports of denials, revocations, or non-renewals must consist of the charter proposal or current charter contract voted upon by the authorizers. The law requires the authorizers to determine a decision in a public forum and to send a copy of each board's resolution setting forth the board's action and its reasons for the action to the state board of education and the Commission.

The law has closure provisions related to property and asset disposition. State regulations outline the requirements for timely parent notification and orderly student and record transitions. State law also requires the school to give parents 60 days’ notice of the closure.

Illinois law does not allow for charters to transfer from one authorizer to another outside of the Commission appeals process for charters that are non-renewed or revoked by their local school board authorizer. State law does require the state to review charter contracts for compliance with the law and certify them.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
9A
Authorizer must issue school performance renewal reports to schools whose charter will expire the following year.
Yes
9B
Schools seeking renewal must apply for it.
No
9C
Authorizers must issue renewal application guidance that provides an opportunity for schools to augment their performance record and discuss improvements and future plans.
No
9D
Ability to have a differentiated process for renewal of high-performing charter schools.
Yes
9E
Authorizers must use clear criteria for renewal and nonrenewal/revocation.
Yes
9F
Authorizers must ground renewal decisions based on evidence regarding the school’s performance over the term of the charter contract in accordance with the performance framework set forth in the charter contract.
No
9G
Requirement that authorizers close chronically low-performing charter schools unless exceptional circumstances exist.
Yes
9H
Authorizers must have the authority to vary length of charter renewal contract terms based on performance or other issues.
Yes
9I
Authorizers must provide charter schools with timely notification of potential revocation or nonrenewal (including reasons) and reasonable time to respond.
Yes
9J
Authorizers must provide charter schools with due process for nonrenewal and revocation decisions (e.g., public hearing, submission of evidence).
Yes
9K
All charter renewal, nonrenewal, and revocation decisions must be made in a public meeting, with authorizers stating reasons for nonrenewals and revocations in writing.
Yes
9L
Authorizers must have school closure protocols to ensure timely parent notification, orderly student and record transitions, and property and asset disposition.
No
9M
Any transfer of charter contracts from one authorizer to another are only allowed if they are approved by the state.

Is there transparency regarding educational service providers?

Illinois law contains a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding educational service providers. Under Illinois law, a charter school may negotiate and contract with a for profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of a school building and grounds or any other real property or facilities that the charter school desires to use or convert for use as a charter school site, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking that the charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the terms of its charter.
The law provides that all authorizers shall ensure that any charter school established on or after January 1, 2015 has a governing body that is separate and distinct from the governing body of any CMO or EMO, and must deal with any conflict of interest issues. In reviewing charter applications and charter renewal applications, authorizers shall review the governance model proposed by the applicant to ensure that there are no conflicts of interest. The law also provides that no charter school may employ a staff person who is simultaneously employed by an EMO or CMO.

Charter schools are required to abide by the portions of the school code that deal with criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements. While the section of pertinent code does not call out charter schools or ESPs, it is inferred that employees of ESPs are also required to abide by these procedures.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
10A
All types of educational service providers (both for-profit and nonprofit) are allowed to operate all or parts of schools.
No
10B
The charter application requires (1) performance data for all current and past schools operated by the ESP, and (2) explanation and evidence of the ESP’s capacity for successful growth while maintaining quality in existing schools.
No
10C
A performance contract is required between the independent charter school board and the ESP, with such contract approved by the school’s authorizer.
Some
10D
School governing boards operate as entities completely independent of any ESP, individuals compensated by an ESP are prohibited from serving as voting members on such boards, and existing and potential conflicts of interest between the two entities are required to be disclosed and explained in the charter application.
No
10E
Provides that charter school governing boards must have access to ESP records necessary to oversee the ESP contract.
No
10F
An ESP must annually provide information to its charter school governing board on how that ESP spends public funding it receives when the ESP is performing a public function under applicable state law.
Yes
10G
Requires that similar criminal history record checks and fingerprinting requirements applicable to other public schools shall also be mandatory for on-site employees of ESPs who regularly come into contact with students.

Are the schools fiscally and legally autonomous with independent charter school boards?

Illinois law requires a charter school be organized and operated as a nonprofit corporation or other legal entity, governed by its own board of directors or other governing body of a discrete legal entity already existing or established to operate the proposed school, and responsible for the management and operation of its fiscal affairs.
Illinois statute does not include all provisions that would clearly indicate that every charter school, including conversion schools, is a separate legally autonomous school (e.g., it does not state that they can sue and be sued in their own names).

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
11A
Fiscally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to receive and disburse funds; incur debt; and pledge, assign, or encumber assets as collateral).
Some
11B
Legally autonomous schools (e.g., schools have clear statutory authority to enter into contracts and leases, sue and be sued in their own names, and acquire real property).
Some
11C
Independent school governing boards created specifically to govern their charter schools.

Are there clear student enrollment and lottery procedures?

Illinois law does not require charter schools to provide open enrollment to any student in the state. It does indicate that charter schools are subject to all federal and state laws and constitutional provisions prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability, race, creed, color, gender, national origin, religion, ancestry, martial status, or need for special education services.
Illinois law requires charter schools to give priority in admissions to siblings of pupils enrolled in the charter school and to pupils enrolled in the school the previous school year, unless expelled for cause. It does not require them to have an enrollment preference for previously enrolled students within conversions.

Illinois law allows charter schools to give priority to pupils residing within the charter school's attendance boundary in Chicago, if the Chicago school board has designated a boundary. The law allows the Chicago school board to designate attendance boundaries for no more than one-third of the charter schools permitted in the city if it determines that attendance boundaries are needed to relieve overcrowding or to better serve low-income and at-risk students.

It also allows a charter school located in a school district that contains all or part of a federal military base to set aside up to 33% of its current charter enrollment to students with parents assigned to the federal military base, with the remaining 67% subject to the general enrollment and lottery requirements. It also provides that if a student with a parent assigned to the federal military base withdraws from the charter school during the course of a school year for reasons other than grade promotion, those students with parents assigned to the federal military base shall have preference in filling the vacancy.

Illinois law requires that if there are more applicants than spaces, charter schools must choose students by lottery.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
12A
Open enrollment to any student in the state.
Yes
12B
Anti-discrimination provisions regarding admissions.
Some
12C
Required enrollment preferences for previously enrolled students within conversions and for prior-year students within charter schools.
Yes
12D
Lottery requirements.

Is there automatic exemption from many state and district laws and regulations?

Under Illinois law, charter schools are exempt from all state laws and regulations in the school code governing public schools and local school board policies, except the following: the state's charter school law; the Illinois Labor Relations Act; all federal and state laws and rules applicable to public schools that pertain to special education and the instruction of English language learners; certain sections of the school code regarding criminal background investigations of applicants for employment; certain sections of the school code regarding discipline of students; certain sections of the code regarding bullying prevention; sections of the code regarding concussions and head injuries; the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act; a certain section of the General Not For Profit Corporation Act of 1986 regarding indemnification of officers, directors, employees, and agents; the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act; the Illinois School Student Records Act; a certain section of the school code regarding school report cards; and all non-curricular health and safety requirements applicable to public schools in the state.
Outside of Chicago, state law requires charter schools to have at least 75% of instructional staff certified and requires non-certified teachers to have a bachelor's degree, five years' experience in the area of degree, a passing score on state teacher tests, and evidence of professional growth and requires charter schools to provide mentoring to uncertified teachers. The law also requires at least 50% of the individuals employed in instructional positions by a charter school in Chicago established after April 16, 2003, to hold teaching certificates and 75% of the individuals employed in instructional positions by a charter school in Chicago established before April 16, 2003, to hold teaching certificates.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
13A
Exemptions from all laws, except those covering health, safety, civil rights, student accountability, employee criminal history checks, open meetings, freedom of information, and generally accepted accounting principles.
Some
13B
Exemption from state teacher certification requirements.

Is there an automatic collective bargaining exemption?

Illinois law provides that charter schools are exempt from district collective bargaining agreements. It also specifies that any bargaining unit of charter school employees that is formed must be separate and distinct from any bargaining units formed from employees of a school district in which the charter school is located.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
14A
Charter schools authorized by nonlocal board authorizers are exempt from participation in any outside collective bargaining agreements.
Yes
14B
Charter schools authorized by local boards are exempt from participation in any district collective bargaining agreements.

Are multischool charter contracts and/or multicharter contract boards allowed?

Current law allows the first 15 charter contracts in Chicago to include multiple schools with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school, but prohibits such an arrangement in charter contracts beyond the first 15. No language exists to allow charter contracts outside the city of Chicago to include multiple schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
15A
Oversee multiple schools linked under a single contract with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.
No
15B
Hold multiple charter contracts with independent fiscal and academic accountability for each school.

Is there eligibility and access to extracurricular and interscholastic activities?

Illinois law is silent about charter eligibility and access.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
16A
Laws or regulations explicitly state that charter school students and employees are eligible to participate in all extracurricular and interscholastic activities available to noncharter public school students and employees.
No
16B
Laws or regulations explicitly allow charter school students in schools not providing extracurricular and interscholastic activities to have access to those activities at noncharter public schools.

Is there clear identification of special education responsibilities?

Illinois law contains a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding special education responsibilities.
State law requires the state board of education to distribute all federal and state special education funds to Commission-authorized charters.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
17A
Clarity regarding which entity is the local education agency (LEA) responsible for providing special education services.
Some
17B
Clarity regarding the flow of federal, state, and local special education funds to the designated LEA.
No
17C
Clarity regarding funding for low-incident, high-cost services for charter schools (in the same amount and/or in a manner similar to other LEAs).
No
17D
Clarity that charter schools have access to all regional and state services and supports available to traditional districts.

Is there equitable operational funding and equal access to all state and federal categorical funding?

Under current law, charters may receive no less than 97% and no more than 103% of what their host district spends per student in district-run schools.
Commission-authorized charters serve as their own LEAs. All other charters in the state are part of their district’s LEA. Commission-authorized charters must apply for and receive any categorical funds. District-authorized charters can’t always apply for such categorical funds directly because they are a school that is part of a district.

Commission-authorized charters’ transportation funding is similar to some districts, although it is less than lower-wealth districts’ fund. The minimum amount to be received by a Commission-authorized charter is $16 times the number of eligible pupils transported. The law also provides that a school board must provide free transportation to any charter school student who also resides at least 1.5 miles away from the school.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Yes
18A
Equitable operational funding statutorily driven.
Some
18B
Equal access to all applicable categorical federal and state funding and clear guidance on the pass-through of such funds.
Some
18C
Funding for transportation similar to school districts.
No
18D
Annual report offering district and charter school funding comparisons and including annual recommendations to the legislature for any needed equity enhancements.

Is there equitable access to capital funding and facilities?

Illinois law contains a small number of the model law’s provisions regarding equitable access to capital funding and facilities.
Illinois law creates a revolving loan fund that provides interest-free loans to charter schools for acquiring and remodeling facilities. The state recently appropriated $200,000 to this program.

Illinois law provides that the state board of education shall make grants to charter schools to pay their start-up costs of acquiring educational materials and supplies, textbooks, electronic textbooks and the technological equipment necessary to gain access to and use electronic textbooks, furniture, and other equipment or materials needed during their initial term. The state board shall annually establish the time and manner of application for these grants, which shall not exceed $250 per student enrolled in the charter school. The state is currently not providing funding to this program.

Illinois law provides that charter schools can access tax-exempt revenue bond and lease financing for capital projects through the Illinois Finance Authority.

The law provides that a charter school may negotiate and contract with a school district, the governing body of a State college or university or public community college, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of a school building and grounds or any other real property or facilities that the charter school desires to use or convert for use as a charter school site, the operation and maintenance thereof, and the provision of any service, activity, or undertaking that the charter school is required to perform in order to carry out the terms of its charter.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Facilities Funding
No
19A
A per-pupil facilities allowance that annually reflects actual average district capital costs.
No
19B
A state grant program for charter school facilities.
No
19C
Equal access to existing state facilities programs available to noncharter public schools.
Access to Public Space
No
19D
A requirement for districts to provide school district space or funding to charter schools if the majority of that schools’ students reside in that district.
No
19E
Right of first refusal to purchase or lease at or below fair market value a closed, unused, or underused public school facility or property.
Access to Financing Tools
Yes
19F
A state loan program for charter school facilities.
Yes
19G
Equal access to tax-exempt bonding authorities or allowing charter schools to have their own bonding authority
No
19H
Pledging the moral obligation of the state to help charter schools obtain more favorable bond financing terms.
No
19I
The creation and funding of a state charter school debt reserve fund.
No
19J
The inclusion of charter schools in school district bonding and mill levy requests.
No
19K
A mechanism to provide credit enhancement for charter school facilities.
Other
Yes
19L
Charter schools allowed to contract at or below fair market value with a school district, a college or university, or any other public or for-profit or nonprofit private entity for the use of facility for a school building.
No
19M
Certain entities allowed to provide space to charter schools within their facilities under their preexisting zoning and land use designations.
No
19N
Charter school facilities exempt from ad valorem taxes and other assessment fees not applicable to other public schools.

Is there access to relevant employee retirement systems?

Illinois law provides that certified teachers in Chicago must participate in the Chicago Teacher Pension Fund, but prohibits non-certified teachers from participating. The law also provides that certified teachers outside of Chicago must participate in the State Pension Fund, (the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois) but prohibits non-certified teachers from participating.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
Some
20A
Charter schools have access to relevant state retirement systems available to other public schools.
No
20B
Charter schools have the option to participate (i.e., not required).

Are there provisions for full-time virtual charter schools?

Illinois law does not contain any of the model law’s provisions for full-time virtual charter schools.

Subcomponents

Key
Yes
Some
No
No
21A
An authorizing structure whereby full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from more than one district may be approved only by an authorizer with statewide chartering jurisdiction and authority, full-time virtual charter schools that serve students from one school district may be authorized by that school district, and a cap is placed on the total amount of funding that an authorizer may withhold from a full-time virtual charter school.
No
21B
Legally permissible criteria and processes for enrollment based on the existence of supports needed for student success.
No
21C
Enrollment level provisions that establish maximum enrollment levels for each year of a charter contract, with any increases in enrollment from one year to the next based on whether the school meets its performance requirements.
No
21D
Accountability provisions that include virtual-specific goals regarding student enrollment, attendance, engagement, achievement, truancy, and attrition.
No
21E
Funding levels per student based on costs proposed and justified by the operators.
No
21F
Performance-based funding whereby full-time virtual charter schools are funded via a performance-based funding system based on meeting the accountability performance provisions.