Durbin, Kirk, Schneider Visit Great Lakes Naval Station LEARN Charter School

Congressmen Discuss Continued Support for the Base, Its Employees, and Their Families

[NORTH CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today visited Great Lakes Naval Station with Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and U.S. Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL-10) to discuss the future of the station with Base Commander CAPT Randy Lynch and other leaders.  Earlier this year Durbin was named the chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees funding for the military and intelligence community, the nation’s security requirements and the daily needs of over two million active duty and reserve servicemembers.


“Since taking the reins of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I have visited military bases in the U.S. and abroad – including all three of Illinois’ major installations – to hear firsthand about the support they need to stay strong into the future,” Durbin said.  “Great Lakes is a vital training site for the Navy and an important piece of Lake County’s economy.  I intend to work hard to ensure Great Lakes has the resources it needs to provide the best training for the cadets who train here and a good quality of life for families who call the station home.”


"I want to thank Captain Lynch and all of the Naval Station Great Lakes sailors who volunteered their time to help the residents of Gurnee during the floods,” Kirk said. "Beyond being the largest training station in the Navy, Naval Station Great Lakes is an integral part of the Lake County community and economy.  As Ranking Member on the Milcon/VA Appropriations Subcommittee, I have made it a priority to ensure that the Naval Station Great Lakes has all of the resources necessary to continue to thrive.”


"For more than 100 years, the Naval Station Great Lakes has been a critical training site for our nation's sailors as well as a strong part of our community and our local economy," Schneider said. "I am committed to working with my colleagues to make sure the base has the tools it needs to continue training the world's finest sailors. That includes continuing to work to improve our local schools, expanding the opportunity for quality education to every child, regardless of zip code."


Great Lakes hosts the Navy’s only boot camp, training 40,000 recruits every year.  The Station’s Training Support Center provides the Navy’s largest technical training program to an additional 13,500 students annually.  Great Lakes employs more than 10,000 active duty personnel and 6,300 civilian employees and generates $748 million in economic activity including civilian payrolls, government purchases and contracts.


The Congressmen also visited the LEARN Public Charter School campus on the edge of the Naval Station.  LEARN is a successful charter school network in the Chicagoland area which opened its North Chicago campus last fall.  Durbin, Kirk and Schneider visited a seventh-grade classroom and applauded the Navy, the LEARN Charter School Network, the Illinois State Board of Education and the community of North Chicago for working to bring the charter group’s successful elementary school model to the area.


“A family on base cannot enjoy a high quality of life without strong schools for their children,” Durbin said.  “Every child deserves the opportunities that come with a quality education, yet for over a generation North Chicago has struggled to meet that standard for the children and families at Great Lakes and throughout the community.  I was pleased to join Senator Kirk to support the state of Illinois’ efforts to bring a proven educational option to North Chicago parents and children.”


“This new school is an important step towards improving the educational opportunities for all of the students in North Chicago, including those from our military families,” Kirk said. “LEARN has a proven track record in Chicago and this new charter school will bring that same level of excellence to the Great Lakes and North Chicago public school community.”


This school year, LEARN North Chicago is serving 250 students in grades K-2nd and 6th-7th, including many children of Great Lakes employees.  The school will add two more grades next year and will grow by one grade each year after that, so that by 2016 it will serve 500 students in grades K-8th.  LEARN serves a diverse student body including not just military students but others from throughout the North Chicago community.  In the LEARN network of five public charter elementary schools in the Chicagoland area, 95% of students graduate high school, 79% of students meet or exceed state standards on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT), and 93% of alumni attend college.


Durbin and Kirk have worked together for several years to preserve federal education funding in North Chicago through the Impact Aid program.  Impact Aid supports schools serving children from military families.


Low test scores and poor financial management have long plagued North Chicago Public School District 187.  In the last twenty-one years, fifteen different superintendents have led the district.  In December 2010, North Chicago’s elected school board and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) signed an intergovernmental agreement giving the state final say over budget, curriculum and hiring decisions. 


Earlier this year, state officials announced plans to invite LEARN to open a campus in the city.  In March, the North Chicago school board voted down the proposal, but the state overrode their decision and granted LEARN its charter.  In May, ISBE replaced the school board with an independent appointed authority and also created a separate five-member financial oversight panel.