Illinois legislature dooms thousands of poor children to an inferior education
I was hopping mad this morning when I learned that the Illinois House defeated a measure that would allow 30,000 Chicago public school children to attend better schools with vouchers.
I’m a liberal, and I know liberals are supposed to be against school vouchers, but I’m against the foolish, stick-in-the-mud thinking that keeps low-income kids in rotten schools.
The measure was struck down by opposition from teacher’s unions. No surprise there. They say vouchers would destroy public education.
“We are attempting to destroy public education for some children. And when we do that, we deny all of them an opportunity to be the best they can be,” says Representative Monique Davis, according to the Sun Times. She voted against the plan.
You know what I say? If something isn’t working, it deserves to be destroyed.
I’m not talking about public education in general. I think public education can work, even in struggling communities. But schools that consistently fail kids – whether its because they have lousy teacher or because they’re not given enough resources by the city and the state – they should close because they’re ruining children every day of the week.
This program would have let kids who go to the worst, most over-crowded and under-resourced schools have a chance to get a decent education. Would it have meant teachers losing their jobs? You bet, it would. Would it have meant emptying out schools that don’t do their job? Yes indeed.
I feel sorry for anyone who loses their job. That sucks. But you know what’s worse? Generations of kids unable to write, read, spell and do basic math.
I volunteer with kids down in Altgeld Gardens, who tell me about their education. They go to schools where there’s 40 kids in a classroom. Where there’s not enough toilet paper for each student, much less writing paper. And it shows. I love these kids, but many of them can barely write a sentence, and they’re 11 and 12 years old. That’s failure.
These kids don’t deserve to be sacrificed on the altar of somebody’s job or the hope that one day, the adults that run the school system will get their poop in a group and create excellent schools.
A review of voucher programs across the U.S. shows that kids who use vouchers to attend better schools do better over the long run. Is it an instant cure? No. They take a few years, sometimes, to gain ground. But then again, they’ve been poorly educated for years. Even a good education isn’t a magic wand.
I don’t think vouchers are a long term solution. Should every neighborhood school be excellent? Absolutely. Without question. I even think CPS’ magnet program, which creates better schools that often become off-limits to neighborhood kids, is ridiculous. But, in the short term, if it means some kids get to go to a decent school, than let’s do it.
I’d like to know if the public officials who defeated this measure have kids that go to failing public schools. I would imagine they don’t. I would imagine their kids read, write and do math at grade level. I would imagine their kids aren’t deciding daily between the chance to go to school and the chance to be hit by a stray bullet on the way there.
It’s easy to give into pressure from interest groups when it’s somebody else’s kids at stake. The one question we need to be asking her – both of the voucher program and the current state of these under-performing schools – is this: Does it work?
If the answer is that the current schools aren’t working and vouchers might work better, let’s give it a try. Because if doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, then putting these kids back in schools that are failing is the epitomy of deranged.