I Voted Today: Open Letter to Woodland School District

To: Woodland School District 50; Dil Dybas, Community Engagement Liaison, Prairie Crossing Charter School; Illinois State Board of Education

Today I voted an empty ballot for the Woodland School Board members up for election/reelection. I’m not sure it will make a difference, but I want to make it clear why.

Woodland has been contesting the existence of Prairie Crossing Charter School  since its opening in 1999. Regardless of the fact that PCCS is a wonderful school, under Charter School law in Illinois, it is required that Charter Schools renew their charter agreements every five years. PCCS has successfully renewed its contract three times since its inception, and each time, Woodland has been at the forefront of contesting PCCS’s right to exist. Woodland seems to feel that closing PCCS will cure years of mismanaged budgets by their administration and their school board.

What this boils down to is: Woodland school board wants Prairie Crossing’s money.

PCCS has been educating the children of the Woodland and Fremont school districts for 15 years and has been doing it well. It is an innovative, high‐quality educational program focused on the environment, and has received multiple national recognitions. It is open to all students in the two districts, tuition‐free, with no admission criteria.

My child has been attending PCCS for two and a half years. I can’t say how he would do at Woodland; I certainly am not commenting on the quality of education at Woodland. What I am saying is that, by Illinois law, I have a choice of where to send my child to school, and I choose Prairie Crossing. My son has received a quality education with an individual focus, and he has been thriving at Prairie Crossing Charter School.

According to Greg Richmond, Chairman of the State Charter School Commission, “Prairie Crossing underwent a lengthy and rigorous evaluation when it came up for review before the State Charter School Commission last year. The Commission fully vetted every aspect of Prairie Crossing, and a majority of Commissioners voted to renew its charter in conformance with the provisions of state law. During that review process, lawyers for the Woodland school board asked the Commission cut the charter school’s funding 25% and give that money – about $775,000 – to Woodland. When the Commission declined, the Woodland school board sued, not just to take $775,000, but to close the school and take it all. Ironically, closing the school doesn’t even help Woodland. Yes, it would get all of Prairie Crossing’s money, but it would also get their kids and the cost of educating them. There would be no windfall. Attorneys from the Commission, State Board of Education, and Attorney General’s office believe the law is on the side of Prairie Crossing. Yet the judge’s hand‐written, one‐page decision provides no insight into his reasoning. The Woodland school board will likely end up paying hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to its lawyers as proceedings drag on. If the Woodland school board were spending that money to improve the educational opportunities available to families in their district, they would be doing what the voters expect. Instead, they are spending that money to try to close Prairie Crossing and reduce the school options available to their families.”

Let me restate: By Illinois law, Prairie Crossing Charter School has a right to exist, and I have the right to choose where my son attends school. I choose Prairie Crossing. And I choose to cast an empty ballot rather than reinstate school board members who would rather spend the school district’s–and taxpayers’–money frivolously than spend it on improving the quality of education in its district.

Sincerely,

Koka Kliora
Proud PCCS parent

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