FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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.