Facts About Prairie Crossing Charter School
1. Prairie Crossing Charter School was established by the state of Illinois in 1999. Charter schools in Illinois are created without any additional funding from the state to support the school. A local school district is forced to fund an entirely new school, administration and staff without any additional financial assistance from the state. Since 1999, $54.4 million in state aide - at least half of what Woodland receives - has been diverted from Woodland to support Prairie Crossing Charter School.
2. The Woodland Board of Education denied the initial proposal for the charter in 1999 because the Board believed it has a responsibility to safeguard taxpayer dollars while providing educational opportunities for all students. Prairie Crossing's theme of environmental stewardship and ecological understanding were already part of Woodland's curriculum.
3. In 2013, Woodland reached out to Prairie Crossing to discuss a possible solution that would benefit all students in the district, which was ignored. In 2013, Woodland reached out to Prairie Crossing to seek legislative change that would benefit both districts equally through House Bill 2660. Unfortunately, the bill did not move forward.
4. In 2014, Woodland took legal action to get a judicial reversal of the state commission's reauthorization of the charter for another five years. Woodland's position was that since its inception, Prairie Crossing Charter School has failed to educate at-risk students as mandated by the Illinois State Charter School Law.
5. Beginning the 2017-18 school year, Illinois refined its public school funding methodology (Evidence Based Funding) to provide equitable State funding based on a district’s ability to provide an appropriate education for its students with an emphasis on a district’s specific student demographic population. Special populations including English Learner, Low Income and Special Education students are now provided with additional funding to help close educational gaps. However, the charter school funding formula nullifies the States funding methodology and funds meant specifically for Woodland students are diverted to Prairie Crossing Charter School.
6. As determined by the State through Evidence Based Funding, Woodland currently has 84% of the revenue needed to provide for its students. The revenues in this calculation include monies diverted to Prairie Crossing and thus are inflated.
7. Since Prairie Crossing's 2009 reauthorization, the Illinois State Board of Education has mandated that the charter school increase its outreach to at-risk students in the Woodland community - where more than 35 percent of the student population is low-income. Prairie Crossing has failed to do so and the gap between the student demographics of our shared community and the student population at Prairie Crossing continues to widen.
8. Of the 432 students enrolled at Prairie Crossing Charter School, only 4 percent are low income, according to the Illinois State Report Card. Of the 5,399 students enrolled at Woodland District 50 schools, 35 percent are low-income.
9. To attend the charter school, there is an application and acceptance process. Woodland schools are public and anyone who lives inside the district boundaries may attend.
10. Prairie Crossing Charter School does not provide transportation for students. Woodland buses all students.
11. Prairie Crossing Charter School does not provide a hot lunch or breakfast for students. Woodland does.
12. In 2019, Prairie Crossing’s Charter was renewed by the Charter School Commission for an additional 5-years despite Woodland’s objections to the overwhelming failure of Prairie Crossing to enroll at-risk students. The Charter Commission has now been disbanded and the Illinois State Board of Education has taken its place.
13. Prairie Crossing Charter School operates with its own board of directors, who are not elected by the public, yet control the use of public money from the state of Illinois.
14. As Woodland District 50's enrollment decreases, more state dollars (based on per capita costs) are diverted to the charter school.
In May 2019, Woodland filed a complaint with ISBE seeking a reversal of the Commission’s decision. Woodland’s complaint materials are available here. In June 2020, ISBE rejected Woodland’s complaint.