Today, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools announced its annual list of Charter Champions, elected officials from both sides of the aisle who have led the charge to give parents and students better public schools.
One of them is Illinois State Representative Daniel Burke, a Democrat whose district covers a chunk of Chicago’s Southwest Side and surrounding southwest suburbs. The district includes seven charter schools serving more than 4,000 students. Burke has undertaken the quixotic quest to ensure Illinois charter schools get the full funding they are due.
Currently, state law allows charter schools to be funded at only 25 percent of the per-pupil money given to traditional public school districts. This in a state that has been called worst in the nation for funding its public schools!
Burke has been the leading voice in Springfield pushing for full and fair funding for charter schools. “He has been a staunch supporter of charter schools in a state—and in a state assembly—that has seen some tough fights around charters,” says Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance.
His current bill to level the playing field, HB 3780, is currently in the Illinois House Rules Committee. Right now in Illinois, charter schools are effectively funded $2,000 per student less than students in traditional public schools. With 62,000 students in Illinois charter schools, that creates a funding gap of $124 million. Burke’s bill would bring the funds much closer to parity.
Given that Illinois charter schools serve a much more vulnerable student population than traditional public schools, “the gap is unconscionable,” says Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. “Representative Dan Burke understands how important education is to ensuring a bright future. He empowers families to select the best option for their children, regardless of school type. We applaud and thank him for his commitment to Illinois schools and families.”