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“PEIR”ing into charter schools

9/25/2014
Illinois lawmakers are frequently asked to consider legislation that will significantly impact teachers, students, and communities. But too often, the facts and complexities of education issues get lost in political debate, leaving lawmakers without the details they need to make informed decisions. That’s why the IFT has partnered with the Chicago Teachers Union and the Illinois Education Association to develop the Public Education Issues Roundtable (PEIR).
“A wide range of education issues – from state standards to charter schools – have become important topics in the Statehouse,” said IFT Vice President Jane Russell, who also serves as President of the West Suburban Teachers Union, Local 571. “Lawmakers deserve the opportunity to truly understand these critical issues.”

Over the summer, the IFT kicked off the PEIR program by bringing together researchers, our legislative staff, and dozens of lawmakers from both parties to engage in a discussion about charter schools. Roundtables were held in Chicago, Springfield, and Westmont.

Union staff and education experts provided lawmakers with a primer, explaining that contrary to some beliefs, charters are public schools funded by taxpayer dollars and studies have found that charter school students perform about the same as students in neighborhood public schools.

At the meeting in Westmont, Asst. Professor Federico Waitoller from the University of Illinois-Chicago explained that a key difference between charters and traditional public schools is special education enrollment.

“Although charter schools enroll about the same number of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs), they have about half as many students with severe learning disabilities."
This series of PEIR meetings also addressed the central issue of education funding in Illinois. Future roundtables may focus on tenure, assessments, and teacher evaluations.

“The PEIR project is great way for our union to provide legislators with essential information about education issues and share our union’s firsthand perspective on what is best for students and our members” said Russell.

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