More Charter Schools Coming to Illinois

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Illinois’ new Governor Bruce Rauner wants more charter schools, that much is clear.  His first move in this area was to hire Tony Smith as the Superintendent of the Illinois State Board of Education.  He was a proponent of charter schools as superintendent of the Oakland, CA school district.

Now word comes out that Rauner is paying $250,000 per year to his education secretary, Beth Purvis.  Ms. Purvis was the CEO of the Chicago International Charter School network, which has 16 campuses with 9,222 students enrolled.  Read more about how Governor Rauner tried to hide Purvis’ salary within an agency whose budget he intends to slash here.  Two-Hundred Fifty Thousand dollars is a lot of Illinois taxpayer money – Rauner justifies paying a consultant that kind of salary by stating you have to pay good people good money.  That money will be used to find ways to siphon more of Illinois’ taxpayer dollars away from public schools and into the pockets of private investors.

Governor Rauner is pro-business; he has disclosed his net worth is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Read about what Rauner thinks about how charter schools should treat ELL students and students with disabilities here.

A Sad Vision of Charter Schools for Illinois

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Tony Smith – charged with implementing the governor’s vision of charter schools in Illinois

During the closing keynote of the Network for Public Education’s conference, Diane Ravitch shared with the audience a story about an exchange she had in 2012 with Bruce Rauner when she was in Chicago to receive the Kohl Education Prize award. The exchange took place during dinner that evening. Below is a transcript of what Ravitch told us:

 “… I was seated across from Bruce Rauner and I had no idea he was going to run for governor. And we began to have a heated discussion about charter schools because the Noble Network, which he is a part of, names schools for individual rich people so there’s a Bruce Rauner Charter School, there’s a Penny Pritzer Charter School… I don’t know of other rich people in Chicago but they all have their own names on charter schools.

So I said ‘Do you think it’s right that your school doesn’t accept kids with disabilities? He said, ‘Why would we?’

I said, ‘What about the kids who are English Language Learners?’

He said, ‘Those kids are not my problem.’

He said, ‘I want the kids who are going to succeed. I want the kids who are motivated. I want the kids who are going to be successful. I don’t want those kids.’

I said, ‘What are we going to do with them?’

He said, ‘I don’t know, it’s not my problem.’

That’s the governor of Illinois.”

Ravitch is the pre-eminent historian of the American education system so I have no reason to doubt her recollection of the conversation. Rauner just had his buddy Anthony “Tony” Smith hired as the head of the Illinois State Board of Education. Smith was superintendent of the Oakland, CA school district but has never been a teacher or school-level administrator. While in Oakland Smith worked hard to increase the number of charter schools there. He’ll be the perfect state school chief to implement Rauner’s vision of charter schools in Illinois.