Charter school group’s support for state legislature candidate gets them in trouble at Statehouse

The Political Action Committee affiliated with the Illinois Charter School System is consistently well-funded, well-organized, well-run, and often successful in electing legislative candidates who support their cause.

But unlike, say, Personal PAC, which focuses almost solely on the issue of abortion in its ubiquitous mailings, you don’t often see charter schools even mentioned in mailings from the cash-rich INCS Action. And “INCS” is the only identifier on its senders. They don’t mention the full name of the band itself.

There is nothing illegal or even particularly objectionable about this. The group wants more allies in the Statehouse, so they’re using the polls to shape their campaign message, instead of using their own core issues, which may not move enough voters. And because it’s an independent spending committee, campaign contribution limits don’t apply. So they can spend big. And they do.

This year, however, the INCS addressed an issue that got them in trouble at the Statehouse.

“Repeal the dangerous SAFE-T law,” screams a point in a letter on behalf of Representative Chris Bos (R-Lake Zurich). “Violent criminals should not be allowed out on the streets without cash bail.” It’s the mainstay of what the INCS claims to be “Chris Bos’ plan to cut crime and make our communities safer.”

There probably isn’t a huge overlap between ardent charter school supporters and enthusiastic criminal justice reform supporters, but the latter group has a lot of influence in both legislative houses, which is how the SAFE-T law was passed first.

Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago, who has been one of SAFE-T’s most vocal supporters since the massive pushback against the criminal justice reform law began, issued a statement last week about the sender of the INCS.

“It’s disappointing to see this from the charter school industry, especially since their own website says they serve 92% of students of color,” Peters’ statement said. “They should support the elimination of the cash deposit given that 87% of students are given free and reduced lunch and are deeply affected by the issue. I hope they will reconsider their position, especially for the families their schools serve.

Peters was described by the Chicago Teachers Union earlier this year as a “strong supporter of CTU,” and that union is perhaps the most vocal opponent of the charter school system.

I have since been told that INCS Action will no longer use the issue in future mailers. Someone there just wasn’t thinking. It’s one thing to help a candidate from a super-minority party win, it’s another if how you help that person ends up hurting your main issue with the super-majority party. I guess they’ll find a way to work things out. They’re usually pretty good at it.

According to disclosures filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections, the INCS has, at the time of this writing, sent three couriers on behalf of Bos, at $11,400 each. He said he had $1.9 million in cash at the end of September.

Bos definitely needs help. He ended June with just $10,000 in the bank and has since reported raising just $19,000. INCS has already reported spending more money on Bos than the incumbent has.

Bos takes on Nabeela Syed, a tough opponent who said he raised around $372,000 between the start of July and October 14. Bos isn’t a Tier 1 target yet, but Syed roams many neighborhoods and has convincingly won a primary, which has undoubtedly boosted his notoriety. So unless the bottom falls on Democrats, she could make it a close race, especially if House Democrats run her cable ads on Chicago-based television.

The money spent by the Republicans has focused primarily on the issue of crime, which the INCS has obviously taken an interest in. Republicans, however, have come under fire for using a photoshopped image of Syed that makes it look falsely like a sign saying “Defund the police”. Democrats are also known to do this stuff, of course.

The House Dems air two cable TV commercials for Syed. Economic questions are mixed up with abortion.

“Rising prices hurt everyone,” the 15-second ad begins. “I am Nabeela Syed. I fight to reduce property taxes and prescription fees. Extreme politician Chris Bos opposes a woman’s right to choose, no exceptions. I am Nabeela Syed. I will protect your wallet and your rights.

The other 15-second spot focuses solely on Bos, saying he will “ban a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest.”

According to Illinois Right to Life Action, Bos is “entirely pro-life.”

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

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About Michael S. Montanez

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