Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dan Proft for Governor of the State of Illinois



August 11, 2009

A Universal Clout Program For Education

A Radical Idea: An Education System Built For Children

This is a simple, but revolutionary idea: every child in our state should have the opportunity for a quality education that is chosen for him by his family. My campaign is reaching out to any willing ally in this fight.

On Sunday, I had the privilege of visiting the congregation of Bishop Simon Gordon’s Triedstone Full Gospel Baptist Church on Chicago’s Southside to speak about the urgency of reforming Illinois’ K-12 education system. This community already knows full well the failures of the Chicago Public School system. Many also know that, because of their address and their income, they have no option other than the CPS schools that routinely fail to educate their children. They don’t have the clout necessary to send their children to University of Chicago Lab schools like Barack Obama did, for instance.

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn7sW27C3tM

What surprised them was just how bad CPS really is—how much money is funneled into a system that largely fails to give its students the opportunity to earn a quality education.

Like most people, they were shocked to learn that CPS spends MORE than the state average per child per year. In fact, on a per graduate basis, CPS’s $22,000 is nearly twice the state average and even more than New Trier High School.

For this sizeable investment, CPS only graduates half of its students and only 6 in 100 CPS freshmen will earn a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25.

For minority children, the numbers are even more depressing: only 3 in 100 will get a BA by age 25. Frankly, these numbers are more than unacceptable. In my view, they constitute child abuse.

I found that the Bishop Gordon’s Triedstone family agreed with my assessment.

Many people on the campaign trail ask me why I spend so much time talking about CPS. First and foremost, it is because of my fervent belief that every child should have access to the opportunity to earn a quality education.

Second, something else you may not know: you’re paying for this failure. CPS’s primary source of funding is state tax money, not local Chicago property taxes.

The children of this failed system deserve better stewardship of their futures, and taxpayers throughout the state deserve better stewardship of their dollars. And I intend to give it to them. And here’s how:

While the magnitude of the failure of this tax-run system may be news to you, here’s something we all know: clout is how you get things done in Illinois. That’s how you get your child into a good school in Chicago. That’s how you get your child into the University of Illinois. That’s how you get a plum job in state government.

See video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mztlQcNPOL4

So, if clout is what you need, then I propose we give it to everyone.

In a Proft Administration, every family would be able to send their child to the school of their choice. Instead of sending education dollars to centralized bureaucracies like CPS, a Proft Administration will attach those dollars to the students, allowing their parents to choose which school is best for their child.

Every qualifying family would receive state education money directly, not through some bureaucracy, but in the form of a check you can use to pay for your child’s education.

In a Proft Administration, the child in Kenwood would have the same opportunity as the child in Wheaton. The child in Austin would have the same opportunity as the child in Wilmette. Kenwood has clout. Austin has clout. And every child will have more clout than the president of the teachers union.

That is the fundamental idea behind my proposed “Universal Clout Program for Education.” Here’s how it works:

• Any family in Illinois whose child qualifies for the free or reduced federal school lunch program– approximately 900,000 children in this state–would receive a check from the state to apply to the school of their choice. This scholarship money could only be used for a child’s education.

• That amount of the check would correspond to the amount of money the district gets from non-local sources. This alone would routinely be enough to avail children of quality options at the K-12 level.

• In addition, all Illinois families would be able to use Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), like the federal Coverdell Savings Account, toward their elementary or secondary education expenses for any school of their choice. This way, even if the scholarship provided under my plan didn’t cover the cost of tuition at a particular school, the scholarship could provide the necessary leverage when added to tax-exempt savings through an ESA for a family to afford virtually any school of their choosing.

To be clear, I am NOT proposing reducing the state’s investment in education. I am proposing changing how the money flows and changing who gets to make decisions about how Illinois taxpayers’ dollars are spent on K-12 education. Rather than investing in a bureaucracy, a Proft Administration would invest in our students.

That is a simple, yet radical, idea. And to make it come to life, we need to reach out to anyone and everyone who shares our desire to give kids more clout than bureaucrats and political operatives. This includes parents across the state, taxpayers from Zion to Cairo, public school teachers who are just as frustrated and angry with CPS as I am, my friends at Triedstone and every other community of faith in Illinois. We can build the “non-traditional” coalition required to achieve “non-traditional” reform of the K-12 systems in Illinois that are not getting the job done.

Join us.



Jon said...

Let's imagine how this education program would work in D150. There are nearly 14,000 students and 70% classified as low income. Thus, as many as 9,800 kids could get a voucher to be used for school.

Also, nearly 25% of D150 kids are classified as special education students.

Where will they go? Do you think the Catholic schools, Concordia, Peoria Academy, et al are going to accept the kids who are currently struggling? Many parents chose those schools to escape the problems of D150 in order to provide their children with a better learning environment. I know an example of a well to do family that had to have their kindergartner removed from a Catholic school because he had some behavioral issues (5 other parents told the school they they would leave if the "troublesome" kid was allowed to stay).

Are we going to create a "new" school to take this money and educate these kids. Sure, we'll just give them a bunch of money and hope the teach them kids right.

I just don't see how this idea can work for more than a few - and thus to the further detriment of those not chosen to go somewhere else.

Merle Widmer said...


Only a "few" can be quite a lot. Only a few multiplied by thousands of charter schools is quite a few.

These "few" give a better opportunity to lead us in the direction we need to go if we are to remain "a world class" nation.

While most leaders came from public schools in the past, we unfortunately, are living in a present and future that doesn't much resemble the public schools of the past. Nor do too many families resemble the families of the past.

25% special ed? 70% low income? With better trained parents and better schools, both figures would be much lower.

Charter schools have built a record of successes across thew nation. Read about them on some of my blogs over the past 4 years. Besides, no entity succeeds without competition and few succeed where the government sets the rules and runs the system.

Good comments, though.