Fix The Schools; Don’t Empty Them With Private School Vouchers

Indian Prairie Unit District 204 hopes a little shame goes a long way toward making the state pay its growing debt. Every sign at each of the district’s 33 schools in February read "The state of Illinois owes District 204 $7.8 million."

The Chicago Tribune reports that a bill just approved by the Illinois State Senate would give vouchers to kids in worst CPS schools.

This is a mistake.

As much as I support private schools — and, believe me, I do — I am also a strong believer in the public school system. The state has an obligation to provide an education for our children. Spending money on educating our youth can only be a win-win for society. Illinois still falls pitifully near the bottom in its willingness to properly fund education.

From the Chicago Tribune:

The Illinois Senate today approved legislation creating a small-scale voucher program that would provide money for 22,000 students at the worst-performing Chicago Public Schools to attend private schools.

The students would get a voucher equivalent to the minimum amount of money the state requires districts to spend on each child. The vouchers would be part of a test program and could be used toward expenses at any private school in Chicago that is willing to participate.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, passed 33-20 with three present votes.

This is wrong on so many levels.

According to the Tribune, Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, argued the bill doesn’t go far enough to correct the root problems in education. “Maybe the problem starts at home,” Jacobs said. “Are there vouchers so that we can replace the parents who aren’t doing a good job?”

Seeing anyone in Springfield blaming others for the sad state of Illinois public education is the definition of irony. I know there are plenty of young people who face incredible challenges at home. But the home environment is not the root cause. Home and other challenges faced by our children are only ancillary. Residents of Illinois must be willing to accept an increase to the state income tax so those in less affluent districts can enjoy a quality education. Refusal of the state — all of us in the state — to properly fund education is the root cause of the problem.