Illinois House Votes Down Vouchers-For Now…

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The Illinois House voted down vouchers yesterday after a furious lobbying effort by teacher unions. The Chicago Tribune relates dramatic details of the debate:

“Think back to why you ran for office,” said sponsoring Rep. Kevin Joyce, D-Chicago. “Was it for a pension? I doubt it. Was it to protect the leadership of a union? I doubt that. Actually in all cases, I believe each and every one of us here got involved to try and make a difference in the lives of our fellow man.”

Joyce could muster only 48 of the 60 votes needed to pass a bill that would have allowed students to get vouchers worth about $3,700 to switch to private or parochial schools beginning in fall 2011.

Joyce said the bill would have passed if it had not faced the union opposition. The bill got support from 26 Republicans and 22 Democrats, fewer votes than Joyce had expected from his fellow Democrats.

Fighting back tears during the lengthy debate, Rep. Suzanne Bassi, R-Palatine, called on fellow lawmakers to “search your souls” to support the measure because “we have failed these kids in the inner-city schools.”

“I’m pleading with you,” said Rep. Ken Dunkin, D-Chicago, who represents an area with four public schools where students would have been eligible for vouchers. “I’m begging you. Help me help kids in my district.”

Illinois choice advocates should keep their heads up: your day will come.  A quick look at Illinois NAEP scores reveals abysmal performance for African Americans, Hispanics, children with disabilities, free and reduced lunch eligible kids and ELL students.  Illinois kids need a great deal of K-12 reform  with expanded parental choice contributing to an overall improvement strategy.

Sun Tzu wrote that a victorious general wins and then seeks battle, while a defeated army seeks battle and then seeks victory. Senator Meeks has seized the moral high ground. Martin Luther King Jr. didn’t win every battle, but he ultimately won his war because he held this same sort of moral high ground. The teacher union thugs in Illinois want to keep disadvantaged children in failing schools because they put the state funding in their pockets. Illinois reform advocates need to not only give these children options to go elsewhere, but they need to force public school improvement in every possible way.

If Senator Meeks and his allies will keep a relentless focus on justice and literacy, there will be no question of whether they will win, only one of when their victory will finally occur.

11 Responses to Illinois House Votes Down Vouchers-For Now…

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  2. allen says:

    Another fissure in the fault line that could end up fracturing the black vote. I think Obama senses the danger but I don’t think to many other Democrats do.

  3. Greg Forster says:

    Agreed – the parsimonious hypothesis that covers the facts is that Obama is worried about this.

  4. allen says:

    Don’t be so coy Greg. Pray expound the generous hypothesis that covers the facts.

    • Greg Forster says:

      Sorry, I’m too parsimonious to do so.

      • allen says:

        Too bad your judgment doesn’t match your parsimony. After all, your identity is attached to every one of your snotty, valueless and self-indulgent comments.

  5. “If Senator Meeks and his allies will keep a relentless focus on justice and literacy, there will be no question of whether they will win, only one of when their victory will finally occur.”

    I am not so hopeful. We may lose. This system has endured for over 150 years. There is not yet an effective constituency for reform. Golda Meier once said that Israel would have peace when the Muslims learned to love their own children more than they hate Jews. Many people apparently vote for larger government not because they expect that government agencies deliver cost-effective services but to punish the rich with taxes.

    Winston Churchil (iirc) said that Americans can be trusted to do the right thing–after they had tried everything else. Myron Lieberman predicted that other demands on government budgets (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public sector pensions) would eventually compel legislators to enact school choice programs.

    People should support policies which give to individual parents the power to determine which institution shall receive the K-12 education subsidy that taxpayers will spend on their children because school choice is a more effective policy and expanding choice is the moral thing to do, not because we expect to win in this lifetime.

  6. allen says:

    The constituency’s developing and some constituencies don’t yet know they have an interest in the education reform issue.

    Municipal employee unions for one.

    But once it becomes clear that the district tax base is no longer sacrosanct they’ll smell the sweet smell of unclaimed tax money and they’ll see the urgent value in dismantling school districts.

  7. (Allen): “…some constituncies don’t yet know they have an interest in the education reform issue. Municipal employees for one,”

    Maybe, but in Hawaii they are mostly AFSCME, which represents cooks, janitors, clerks, and administrators (yes, administrators) in the DOE.

    Some years ago a friend worked as a tech savvy temp worker for Kelly Girl, Altris, or another one of those temp agencies. He had a gig for a couple of months at the Carpenters’ Union HQ. I remarked that the interests of public-sector workers and private-sector workers diverged and he said that Walter (Kupau, then president of the local) knew that but had to maintain a united front.

  8. allen says:

    United fronts come with price tags attached and when the price becomes too high it’s hasta la vista baby.

    And by municipal employees I’m referring to cops, fireman, roads and parks employees. I they’ve all got the same bargaining unit as the teachers the union has a strong incentive to try to keep everyone happy but there’s a limit to the union’s ability to do so.

    At some point someone’s going to get the bright idea that charters obviate the need for districts and with it the district employees. It might be a young mayor out to make a name for himself or some anti-tax pundit but sooner or later the inherently parsimonious (great word Greg) nature of charter schools will cause a connecting of dots. The educational superfluousness of the district will make it’s tax take vulnerable to a “hostile takeover” and there will be a number of constituencies ready, willing and able to find wonderful uses for the money.

  9. Greg Forster says:

    To clarify, when I invoked “the parsimonious hypothesis” I meant to invoke Ockham’s razor – that we should always seek out the hypothesis that requires the fewest ontological presuppositions. So, for example, if I want to explain why the chair appears empty, the hypothesis that it appears empty because the cat that’s sitting on it is invisible covers all the facts, but is not parsimoniuos because it involves an unnecessary ontological presupposition (i.e. that there is an invisible cat on the chair). The parsimonious hypothesis that covers the facts is that the chair appears empty because it is empty.

    I didn’t mean “parsimonious” in the sense of stingy or frugal. Sorry I inadvertently offended, and then inadvertently made things worse because I hadn’t realized I had inadvertently offended.

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