Illinois voucher bill advances

A bill to give vouchers to students in Chicago’s lowest-performing K-8 schools passed the Illinois Senate on a 33-20 vote and will go to the House.

Sen. James Meeks, a Chicago Democrat,  introduced the bill, which would let 22,000 children “escape the dismal realities of Chicago’s public schools.”  Vouchers would be worth as much as $6,119,  the average state expenditure per pupil, but could not exceed the actual cost of tuition. Chicago’s elementary parochial schools, the closest alternative for many families, now average $3,234 in tuition. (Expect the parochial schools to raise tuition, but offer scholarships to students who aren’t eligible for vouchers.)

Sen. Kwame Raoul, another Chicago Democrat, objected that parents who’ve sacrificed to send their children to private schools wouldn’t be eligible for vouchers.

Another critic, the Chicago Teachers Union, said the plan would skim talented students and precious state dollars away from public schools that need them the most.

Meeks, chair of the Senate Education Committee, announced in the fall that he was fed up with the failure of Chicago’s inner-city schools, frustrated by the teachers’ union and willing to consider a voucher plan.

Matthew Ladner is amazed. I’m surprised myself.

Via Alexander Russo’s District 299 Blog:  Street violence has killed 20 Chicago Public Schools students in the past eight months and wounded 143; that more than the death toll of Chicago soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan in seven years.

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  1. This is progress. It will be interesting to see the teachers’ union put their naked self-interest on display (as usual) once again. These …people… would boil other people’s kids in oil if there was a dime in it.

  2. Given that the state is a few billion dollars behind in the money it owes to schools and universities, with no prospect of bills being paid, I’d say this isn’t anything more than public relations b.s. As to Mr. Kirkpatrick’s calumny against teachers unions, he isn’t worth the spit of the worst teacher on the planet. Drop dead, sir.

  3. So Illinois, Chicago schools especially, are ineffective, dangerous and unresponsive. Seems to me that the big surprise is how long it’s taken the groundswell of public anger to reach the ears of elected representatives.

    Oh, and Mike? Thanks for reminding everyone who reads your comment that unions are always about the ugliest of self-interest.

    Hey, maybe you can go beat up someone who disagrees with you! You’d be re-enacting history *and* current affairs.

  4. Mike,

    You say the sweetest things.

    Beck versus Communication Workers of America.
    1. The courts below properly exercised jurisdiction over respondents’ claims that exactions of agency fees beyond those necessary to finance collective-bargaining activities violated the judicially created duty of fair representation and respondents’ First Amendment rights.
    2. Section 8(a)(3) does not permit a union, over the objections of dues-paying nonmember employees, to expend funds collected from them on activities unrelated to collective-bargaining activities. Pp. 744-762.
    Teachers versus Hudson
    1. 1. Under an agency shop agreement, procedural safeguards are necessary to prevent compulsory subsidization of ideological activity by non-union employees who object thereto while at the same time not restricting the union’s ability to require any employee to contribute to the cost of collective-bargaining activities. The fact that nonunion employees’ rights are protected by the First Amendment requires that the procedure be carefully tailored to minimize an agency shop’s infringement on those rights. And the nonunion employee must have a fair opportunity to identify the impact on those rights and to assert a meritorious First Amendment claim. Pp. 301-304.”
    Air Line Pilots versus Miller
    Held: “When a union adopts an arbitration process to comply with Hudson’s “impartial decisionmaker” requirement, agency-fee objectors who have not agreed to the procedure may not be required to exhaust the arbitral remedy before challenging the union’s calculation in a federal-court action. Pp. 5—12.”
    Abood versus Detroit Board of Education
    Held: …
    2. The principles that under the First Amendment an individual should be free to believe as he will and that in a free society one’s beliefs should be shaped by his mind and his conscience rather than coerced by the State, prohibit appellees from requiring any of the appellants to contribute to the support of an ideological cause he may oppose as a condition of holding a job as a public school teacher. Pp. 232-237.

    (a) That appellants are compelled to make, rather than prohibited from making, contributions for political purposes works no less an infringement of their constitutional rights. P. 234.

    (b) The Constitution requires that a union’s expenditures for ideological causes not germane to its duties as a collective-bargaining representative be financed from charges, dues, or assessments paid by employees who do not object to advancing such causes and who are not coerced into doing so against their will by the threat of loss of governmental employment. Pp. 234-235.
    Davenport versus Washington Education Association
    “Held: It does not violate the First Amendment for a State to require its public-sector unions to receive affirmative authorization from a nonmember before spending that nonmember’s agency fees for election-related purposes. Pp. 5–13.

    (a) It is undeniably unusual for a government agency to give a private entity the power to tax government employees. The notion that §760’s modest limitation upon that extraordinary benefit violates the First Amendment is counterintuitive, because it is undisputed that Washington could have restricted public-sector agency fees to the portion of union dues devoted to collective bargaining, or even eliminated them entirely. Washington’s far less restrictive limitation on respondent’s authorization to exact money from government employees is of no greater constitutional concern. P. 5.”

    Notice how many of these cases involve teachers?

    Unions, even “public sector” unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. Their assets belong to their members and their legal obligations are to dues-paying members and agency fee payers, not to students or taxpayers. Sometimes unions, like other organizations, get captured by insiders who bend the institution to their purposes. In no case do teachers’ unions represent students or “the public”. On the evidence of job satisfaction surveys, teacher unions do not even represent real classroom teachers very well.

  5. (Mike): “Given that the state is a few billion dollars behind in the money it owes to schools and universities, with no prospect of bills being paid, I’d say this isn’t anything more than public relations b.s”

    A move to vouchers would make a difference to State-level financial obligations proportional to the voucher-receiving population and the difference between the per-pupil cost of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s schools (the “public schools”) and the dollar amount of the voucher. According to a recent Pew study, State pensions are seriously under-funded, across the US. Governments at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.” It makes a lot of sense to reduce current public-sector employment, for two reasons. First, if the State (government, generally) can, through parent-directed tuition vouchers, buy education services for less than the current per-pupil cost of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel’s schools, the State can apply the difference to it’s other financial obligations, such as retirees’ pensions. Second, by reducing the current level of public-sector employment, it will reduce future pension liabilities.

    Of course, if you’re an a-hole (like, one of the cartel’s kept legislators), you’ll keep digging, and the public be damned.