School Vouchers for Chicago Elementary Schools
School Vouchers for Chicago Elementary Schools
Written By Laurie Higgins   |   04.14.10

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Rev. Senator James Meeks (D-Chicago) sponsored and passed the bi-partisan school vouchers legislation (SB 2494) that now moves to the Illinois House. This bill would enable 22,000 Chicago elementary students who attend the city’s 49 worst performing schools to attend private schools. IFI applauds Senator Meeks and all the Illinois senators who had the courage and wisdom to advocate for disadvantaged children through this bill. This is an excellent first step.

All parents have the right and should have the means to determine the kind of education their children receive. A statewide voucher system would provide parents an increased measure of choice and control over the education their children receive, and it would provide the means for parents to seek better academic preparation for their children.

Reasons to support SB 2494:

  • Hispanics and African Americans, which are the groups most affected by poor performing urban schools, support the use of government funds to help low-income families afford private schools.
  • Tenure and teachers’ unions in public schools serve as obstacles to school improvement: They often prevent administrators from getting rid of poor teachers.
  • Vouchers save public schools money: “The amount of money spent on the voucher or scholarship for each participant in a school choice program is less than what would have been spent on that student if he or she had remained in public schools. That means states save money that can be plowed back into their education budgets and spent on the students who remain in public schools”
  • Vouchers facilitate racial integration. Currently, segregation persists because families must send their children to neighborhood schools, and neighborhoods, particularly in large, racially diverse, urban communities, are racially segregated. Vouchers break down the barriers determined by neighborhoods.
  • Vouchers improve public schools by creating competition: When public schools know that students have a choice and can leave by using vouchers, they have a powerful incentive to improve their performance and keep those students from walking out the door.
  • A well-constructed voucher system is consistent with democratic and Constitutional principles: “As Chief Justice William Rehnquist explained in the majority opinion, voucher programs such as Cleveland’s are ‘neutral in respect to religion (because they) provide assistance directly to a broad class of citizens, who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice.'”

School vouchers have been endorsed by the liberal Brookings Institution and the conservative Heritage Foundation. Liberty, choice, competition, compassion for the underprivileged, and the eradication of racial division are values that should enjoy bi-partisan support.

If you care about freedom; if you care about the plight of those who attend dangerous, poorly performing schools; if you care about working to eradicate racial division; and if you care about injecting competition into the public school system, please support school vouchers for Chicago elementary students by supporting SB 2494.

Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins was the Illinois Family Institute’s Cultural Affairs Writer in the fall of 2008 through early 2023. Prior to working for the IFI, Laurie worked full-time for eight years...
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