Vouchers dead this year?

It may already have been too late for vouchers in Illinois by the time I started this debate with a pro-voucher business group rep last night on Chicago’s FOX News.

The voucher bill’s Senate sponsor, Matt Murphy, decided not to call the bill yesterday, apparently because he did not have enough votes to pass it. The extended deadline for the bill ends today.

A failure of leadership

On FOX, I called the voucher idea evidence of a failure of leadership, part of an effort to change America into a nation that no longer promises every child a high-quality education. It’s the same idea rich folks are working hard to sell, that oil companies deserve billions in windfall profits and executives deserve millions in bonuses, while the rest of us just might never have a decent job, own a home, or get health insurance. Why should we expect a good school in the kinds of neighborhoods we live in?

My opponent agreed that it’s about failure of leadership – the failure of decades of bad management of our schools (hope they don’t invite him to speak at Mayor Daley’s farewell dinner….) that leaves us with only one answer – give parents a voucher.

He also claimed that vouchers improve education, then proceeded to quote from studies conducted by his own organization, while independent, non-biased studies show that vouchers make no difference in educational outcomes.

Children first??

We got into kind of a silly extended metaphor about boats and sinking ships. He suggested that you have to put some children in the lifeboat to get them off the Titanic and I countered that it would be better to get the ship back on track.

If we really were on the Titanic and the captain really had just crashed into the iceberg, then, yeah, I think you have to do some triage. But it turns out that charter schools and vouchers aren’t lifeboats but simply other sections of the same ship, perhaps the pricier but still tiny cabins as opposed to the hammocks down in the hold where the crew sleep. Same outcome, though.

We have to keep remembering that this is the same Springfield that has failed – failed – failed to fix state school funding for decades. We have to stop letting them get away with – OK, I’ll say it — trying to putting a band-aid on the Titanic.

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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.