Parents & Advocates Protest House Bill 3567: A Moratorium on Charter Public Schools

The forecast showed that Wednesday, April 5th would be a rainy, gray and chilly day in Chicago. Despite the gloomy weather, public charter school parents and advocates set up outside of Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi’s office in Logan Square.

The speakers and supporters huddled together, shielding themselves from the pouring rain with ponchos and umbrellas. Each story they shared was different, but their message was clear: “Guzzardi: hands off our schools.”

Parents, families and charter school advocates were in front of Rep. Guzzardi’s office to protest House Bill 3567, a divisive, discriminatory piece of legislation that could shut thousands of children out of great public schools in their neighborhoods.

“I attended Chicago Public Schools, and my daughters are currently enrolled in a Chicago Public School. So when I say that this isn’t about district schools versus charters schools, I mean it,” said Natalie Neris, Chief of Academic Accountability at Chicago International Charter Schools.

She continued by explaining that the protest was about the positive impact that charter schools have had on Chicago’s students. “The kids that attend CICS and all of Chicago’s charters are given a life changing opportunity – the chance to succeed and grow in this city,” she said.

Guzzardi’s proposed bill falsely scapegoats charter public schools for CPS budget woes, when charter public schools have suffered from the same budget cuts as every other public school in Chicago. The bill would prevent any new charter schools from opening, and older ones from expanding.

“The fact of the matter is, Rep. Guzzardi’s moratorium on charter schools goes against the needs of hundreds of kids and families who don’t have the opportunity that families in his district have,” Neris said.

Her remarks were followed by a speech from Andrew Broy, President of Illinois Network of Charter Schools. Broy enthusiastically stated that “The White Sox may have been rained out, but charter parents will never be rained out,” a statement that seemed to echo the group’s determination to gather outside in the rain to stand up for Chicago’s public charter schools.

Parent activist LaNorra Dennis said she considered herself lucky to have found Legal Prep Charter Academy, an alternative to the poor-performing schools in the district near her home.

Legal Prep, where her son, Cory, is currently a senior and Valedictorian of his class, has consistently provided him with the tools he needs to learn and grow, she said.

“Shutting families out of high-performing schools like Legal Prep is not the answer,” Dennis said to the crowd. “And it certainly isn’t the right move for communities across Chicago.”

Benita Flores, a parent, and resident of the 39th district spoke about how thankful she was to find Speer Academy, a campus of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, that is nurturing her daughter’s academic ambitions.

“As a parent, it breaks my heart to see politicians working to limit the opportunities for families like mine,” Flores said. “I hope that Rep. Guzzardi will wake up, and realize how his bill will keep so many kids from being successful in high school and beyond.”