In an age where people can make choices in almost every aspect of their lives, their hands are still tied when it comes to the education choices for their children.
Choice in schools is already here in one form or another; from choosing where you live, to enrolling in private and religious schools, Charter Schools, and home-schooling. Parents have choice, but it comes at a cost that most cannot afford. This leaves the poor and disadvantaged at a further disadvantage when faced with having virtually no choice in the quality of education their children receive. This has life-long consequences not only for the child, but for the society as a whole.
Many of our legislators in Springfield are the product of school choice, because their families could afford to provide them with the educational opportunity they felt could serve them best. It’s time for them to vote to empower all parents with the same opportunities.
Current School Choice options in Illinois include intra-district transfers in certain districts, tax credits of 25% (up to $500 per family) for private school enrollment, and a Charter School program, online learning in some cases, and public schools. Far short of what is needed to successfully empower parents.
What is needed is increased use of scholarships, or voucher programs used exclusively for education and to support a parent’s choice in where their children attend school. If parents want to send their children to a Catholic school, home school with certain other formal educational opportunities, or other private schools, this type of program would assist them in providing the education they are comfortable with instead of being shackled into a failing public school or in a public school that does not meet the needs of their children.
There are many successful public schools and there are also many failing public schools. This would simply provide for those parents living in a failing district to vote with their tax money and send their children where they will get a better education. The opportunity is already there for those with the financial means. A scholarship program would provide this same opportunity to poor and disadvantaged families.
School Choice is also about the learning style of children. Not all children learn the same way, and choice in the learning environment can help children excel.
According to the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, there are 148 public charter schools in Illinois with 134 of those in the Chicago area. These serve approximately 63,000 students state-wide with 57,000 of those in the Chicago area, or 14% of Chicago Public School students. Illinois Charter Schools have a higher graduation rate, college enrollment rate, and college persistence rate. How can this be a bad thing?
Another advocate for school choice is the Illinois Kids Campaign which is advocating for four core items. 1.) tax credits for teachers for out-of-pocket classroom expenses, 2.) continued funding for music, arts, and sports, 3.) increasing scholarship programs for public and private schools, and 4.) funding for safe, well-maintained buildings.
This is not about a tax grab or an attempt at eliminating public schools, it is simply about the education of our future. All of these options are about educating the public, and we deserve a choice in how the public is educated.