Under the new Safe Schools Act, all school districts in the state—except Chicago—will be eligible next year for new state money for alternative schools.

The act, passed last May, requires all districts to open alternative schools next school year. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to ask for $6 million to pay for them.

But the act also states that Chicago won’t get any funding until the 1997-98 school year, “because of the size of the Chicago public school system, as well as logistical concerns.”

Nevertheless, Chicago hopes to get state money to expand its alternative schools program next year.

At Catalyst press time, a bill was pending to strike the funding restriction and allow Chicago to receive funds next year, along with other districts. However, Republicans had attached to the pending bill another Chicago-only amendment that the Chicago School Reform Board of Trustees doesn’t want, a requirement that it negotiate a merit-pay plan for teachers. (See story.)

Why the original slight? Board of Education lobbyist Richard Guidice calls it “just one of those curious things done by the Republican legislature.” The Safe Schools Act was sponsored by State Rep. Rick Winkel (R-Champaign).

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