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Prairie Crossing Executive Director: Lawsuit is Unfounded

The following letter was set by Prairie Crossing Charter School Executive Director Geoff Deigan to parents and is posted on the school's website. 

Dear PCCS Community,

We want to keep you informed of recent information we received regarding Woodland School District 50. Yesterday, District 50 filed a lawsuit against the Illinois State Charter School Commission (Commission), ISBE and PCCS in Cook County Court, asking for a reversal of our School’s most recent charter renewal approval.

We believe the complaints against the Commission, the School and ISBE are unfounded. While we recognize Woodland has a legal right of appeal – we find it unfortunate that resources to defend unfounded allegations will be used during this process instead of being utilized on our core purpose of providing a quality education to students in our respective districts.

As part of our third charter renewal, Prairie Crossing Charter School submitted to an extensive evaluation, which included an assessment of the School’s academic, financial and organizational achievements. PCCS received high marks (93%-96%) in each of the criteria evaluated. On April 15, 2014, PCCS went before the Illinois State Charter School Commission Board and presented information related to our charter renewal. Our charter was renewed that day, for a term of five years at 100% funding.

It appears the root of the issue is how schools, in general, are funded – including charter schools; Woodland’s choice to file a lawsuit to reverse our charter renewal is due to financial reasons. For years, Woodland has been trying to justify and balance their budget issues on the case that our Charter School exists.

The reality remains that PCCS, as a public school, is entitled to public dollars to educate its students. Woodland’s claim that money is being “siphoned” to PCCS is not revealing the entire story. In Illinois, funding for public education actually follows the student. Unlike Woodland, who can issue tax referendums and receives property taxes through all residents within their district (whether they attend their school or not), PCCS’s only revenue stream from the State is in the form of Per Capita Tuition Charge (PCTC) for students that attend our School. The PCTC is derived by the current funding formula (using General State Aid) that the State created to ensure that schools receive fair and equitable funding for each student they educate.

For example, according to their Illinois District Report Card in 2013, with 6508 students enrolled, Woodland received $63,837,314 in local property tax and $474,761 in General State Aid equaling ~$9,882 per student. In contrast, Prairie Crossing received from the State’s PCTC calculations ~$ 9,620 per student for those that chose to attend PCCS over Woodland.

PCCS is confident that the Commission’s action to renew PCCS through 2019 will remain unchanged. The renewal was a transparent, thorough, and arduous process conducted by the Commission’s Accountability plan and PCCS met or exceeded standards within all categories in which we were evaluated.

PCCS is proud of our students’ accomplishments and we look forward to the opportunity to continue to provide award winning and a personalized education to the families that choose an alternative to traditional public schools through 2019 and beyond. 

GL Res May 26, 2014 at 11:12 PM
I'm happy that Woodland has finally taken up the charge to challenge this charter school. Anyone that has followed this from day 1 knows that the ONLY reason this school received a charter to begin with was a political payoff to a wealthy real estate developer that wanted this school in his development to help sell houses. The state (not the local districts) approved this charter but require the districts to pay for it. I'm tired of my tax dollars funding what is basically a private school. The charter school funding formula used by the state is also unreasonable. The per capita amount assigned to each student does not lower the cost of operation for the school district by that amount (large districts like Woodland have huge fixed costs). I'm rooting for Woodland to win this.

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