(WGN-AM)- A new law that doubles the number of charter schools allowed in Illinois also will give the state an edge in the competition for roughly $5 billion of federal money meant to encourage school reform, Gov. Pat Quinn said today as he signed the legislation.
Chicago will be allowed 45 new charter schools, five of which will be reserved for schools enrolling high school dropouts. Fifteen additional charters will be allotted for the rest of the state.
"We've got to take this movement, this charter movement, and spread it to the rest of the state," Quinn told a crowd that packed the gymnasium at Locke Charter Academy on the West Side, where he signed several education bills.
The law took more than a year to craft, with Democrats, Republicans, unions and charter advocates represented at the bargaining table.
"I know the charter school legislation is an awesome, awesome bill because no one loves it," said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), the bill's main sponsor.
The law also places more accountability on charter schools. By the 2012-13 school year, 75 percent of all charter school teachers will have to be certified by the state, compared with 50 percent today. Charter school teachers will also be allowed to organize under the state's labor relations laws. Additionally, charter school operations with multiple campuses -- a common practice in Chicago -- will have to report test scores for each school campus, where before they could report one composite score.
Advocates say there are nearly 13,000 students statewide who wanted to enroll in charter schools but were squeezed out for lack of space based on waiting lists.
The bills signed by Quinn address specific concerns cited by President Barack Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. To encourage reform, the federal government has announced competitive grants available to states that take measures to reform schools.
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)
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