Private Schools May Suffer without State Accreditation Illinois Says It Will Offer Inspections, Recognition to Some Schools for a Fee
Malone, Tara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Tara Malone Daily Herald Staff Writer
Just how much public support do private schools warrant?
That's the question facing legislators, administrators and parents after the Illinois Board of Education said this would be the last year it would grant private schools an accreditation-like seal of approval.
Cutting the program is expected to shave $344,000 in expenses.
With 314,000, or 14 percent, of the state's 2.2 million schoolchildren attending private schools, some question whether the savings merited a far-reaching cut.
"There are other ways to solve this problem without the state walking away from its responsibility," said state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger, an Elgin Republican.
And "responsibility" is the key word, said Catholic Conference of Illinois officials.
"The state is responsible for overseeing the education of all children in the state. The recognition program was how they did so," said Zachary Wichmann, associate education director for the Catholic conference. "It gives us a sense of legitimacy."
State Education Superintendent Robert Schiller pledged to help get the private school program reinstated, but funding still is a challenge, spokeswoman Naomi Greene said.
"We don't have any wiggle room. If it's considered a valuable service, it'll have to be funded, "Greene said.
Without the state's stamp of approval, the 674 private schools now recognized by the state - out of a total 1,400 - may lose standing in the eyes of colleges, military academies, scholarship organizations and grant programs.
"If we don't do something, kids will start showing up with an A average and 1500 on the SAT, but they can't get into a military academy because their school isn't accredited," Elgin Academy's Head of School John Cooper said.
Like most other private schools, Elgin Academy is accredited by two private associations in addition to the state.
"It's always been nice to have the state recognition, but it's a very minimal standard by which the state accredits schools," said Father Thomas von Behren, president of St. Viator High School in Arlington Heights.
State recognition typically hinges on a periodic inspection of a school's health and safety standards along with an annual application for renewal. …