With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why the Chicago voucher bill failed

Back in the day, when I was over at UIC, a conservative prof friend would always corner me in the hallways between classes to argue school vouchers.

"Mike, you're so smart about small schools," he would usually begin. "Why can't you see how good vouchers would be for Chicago?" He obviously had a different vision of small schools than I did. But on the voucher issue, I finally grew tired of arguing and said, " Look Herb, you're arguing with the wrong guy. Go down to Springfield and talk to your Republican pals in the legislature (at the time, they were the majority). If they really wanted vouchers, there would be vouchers."

This week's defeat of Sen. Meeks voucher bill proved my point. While the unions were attacked from the right for driving the bill's defeat, many downstate Republicans also voted no, enough to kill the bill. According the Crain's Greg Hinz: 
 Of the 48 GOP members of the House, only 29 ever were listed on the tote board as voting "yes." Four of them fell off the roll-call at the last second, as it became clear the bill was going to fail.That means at least 19 — four in 10 — went south on what supposedly is a seminal issue for the Republican Party.
One reason for the Republicans bailing on the bill, according to Hinz -- they "likely were stampeded by the 'slippery slope' argument spread by the unions: Chicago today, the rest of Illinois tomorrow. And others surely relied on that old Springfield bromide: What's in it for me?"

In other words, vouchers were okay for those schools and those kids in Chicago, but not in our districts. And you know what those & our means.


  1. There was no question that there was a racist component to the anti-voucher vote, particularly from the Republican minority in the House. And I even heard it from some in my own IEA. All you have to do is read some of the comments on the IEA web site. Member posts used the word, "Chicago," in a way that could easily be exchanged for a commonly known, racist word.
    On the other hand, the Chicago Federation of Teachers also opposed the Chicago voucher bill, along with many Chicago House members.
    And there is no doubt that the defeat of this measure was good for Chicago public schools and students, if the General Assembly now creates a reliable revenue source for Illinois' public schools. At the moment, a big if.

  2. I recall reading that elite private schools often oppose vouchers on the basis that they fear they might have to endure some regulation and that they wouldn't get to screen their students. (I specifically recall this about Sidwell Friends.) Between the lines, that means they would have to let you-know-who into their school. Those Republicans probably oppose vouchers for that reason -- who KNOWS who might be sitting next to their kids...


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