School voucher win in IL!

Imagine my surprise when I saw this headline in the Chicago Tribune this morning:

Victory for vouchers …

Apparently, this past Thursday, the Illinois State Senate passed a school vouchers bill by a vote of 33-20. Unfortunately, the bill was watered down to exclude high school students, but it’s a start.

The words of the bill’s author, Sen. James Weeks (D-Chicago) – wait, is that the same as Obama’s Chicago – should sound vaguely familiar to anyone who’s paid attention to conservative voucher proposals in the past:

“It was for the bottom 10 percent of failing schools. Who could begrudge students in a failing school a chance to get out if they want to get out?”

He also said,

“Once we see how it works here, I have a lot of other people who are wanting to do it in other places. It’s really, really historic because nobody thought that we’d ever be able to pass a voucher bill out of a Democratically-controlled Senate. It actually happened.”

The Trib added this commentary (emphasis mine):

How did a measure to provide private school vouchers to public school students make it through a Democratic Senate? Credit Sen. James Meeks, D-Chicago, who drafted the proposal and muscled it home. Meeks has long pushed for more state education funding, and for funding equity between rich and poor schools. He hasn’t given up on those goals. But he’s unwilling to stand by and wait for more money to materialize while children continue to suffer in lousy schools.


We expect Meeks’ elementary school voucher program to be a first step toward greater school choice. If families like this pilot and if students make the most of better choices, then many more kids deserve to benefit. The specter of voucher-funded competition ought to provoke the public schools into offering better educations to their students, too.


Here’s the best part: “It’s 22,000 kids with a chance … or a choice.” We like the sound of that.

Granted, the bill still has to pass the Illinois House and be signed by Gov. Quinn, but still…progress is being made in the belly of the beast. You can’t really ask for more than that these days.

P.S. So, am I crazy that my first reaction was, “How the heck did THAT happen in Illinois, and from a Chicago Dem?” instead of “It’s about time the Dems realized that school choice is a GOOD thing!”