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Illinois Charter Supporters Rally Against Set of Bills Aimed at Charters

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Charter advocates in Illinois are gathering today in Springfield to rally against ten bills currently pending the legislature that they say would restrict the startup and growth of charter schools in the state.

The bills, all of which are sponsored by Democrats, aim to eliminate the Illinois State Charter School Commission, prevent charter schools from spending funds on marketing, stop charter schools from opening in ZIP codes where a regular public school was closed, require all charter high schools to establish vocational academies, and extend the moratorium on virtual charter schools outside of Chicago, among other policies.

The Chicago Teachers Union, which has been a vocal critic of charter schools in the city, has come out in support of the bills, saying they will bring "significant reforms to [an] unstable charter movement in Illinois," according to a press release.

But charter supporters are calling the bills "an unprecedented attack on school choice in Illinois" and have organized a rally of more than 1,500 charter supporters to protest the passage of the pending legislation.

Starlee Rhoades, the vice president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, appeared today on WSJ Live to talk about the push.

"[Some lawmakers in the state House and Senate] want to change the way charters operate fundamentally, and they've done everything they can through these bills to try to make it really hard for a charter school to open, which is tragic because there are 20,000 kids in Illinois waiting to get into a charter school right now," she said in the interview.

The move comes after a report released earlier this week by the Chicago Sun-Times  and the Medill Data Project at Northwestern University found that students in Chicago performed at virtually the same levels on standardized tests whether they were attending charter schools or regular public schools.

Charter school growth in Chicago has become particularly contentious since the Chicago school board voted last year to close nearly 50 regular public schools across the city while approving a host of seven new charter schools shortly thereafter. 

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