Activists Call on Rauner to Avoid School Voucher Programs

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

By: Ashmar Mandou

This week, 34 legislators signed a letter to Governor Bruce Rauner urging him to keep school voucher programs out of Illinois and keep public dollars within the public education system not to be diverted to private and religious schools. “What we need in Illinois is not a voucher system. To improve education, we need two things: a budget that fully funds our schools and an equitable school funding formula. We cannot allow Governor Rauner to sell off another public good to the highest bidder. The Trump-Rauner education plan will not help Illinois students,” said Senator Omar Aquino, on Tuesday, May 16th inside the Blueroom at the Illinois State Capitol Building, where he was joined by students, parents, activists, and fellow legislators.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

The press conference was in direct response to Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos and President Trump’s support for the use of federal funds for voluntary school voucher programs at the state level. President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 includes $250 million for private school choice initiatives. A school voucher can be thought of as a coupon supported by state dollars that allows parents to use them to send their kids to the school of their choice, even private, religiously affiliated schools. The money is all or some of what the state would have otherwise spent to educate the child in a public school. Vouchers are often reserved for low-income students, children with disabilities or for families zoned to a failing public school. Currently, 14 states offer the student voucher program, including Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin, in addition to Washington, D.C.

The letter to the Governor from state legislators that they “oppose the creation of any program that will divert public funds from the public school system to be used to pay tuition, fees or other costs at private and religious schools—whether in the form of vouchers or scholarship tax credits, other than that which already exists under current state and federal law to provide students with disabilities with a Free and Appropriate public education.” Community groups delivered the letter to Governor Rauner’s office following the press conference. Legislators who signed on to the letter include: Representatives Carol Ammons, Kelly Cassidy, Linda Chapa LaVia, Barbara Flynn Currie, Mary Flowers, Robyn Gabel, Will Guzzardi, Michael Halpin, Sonya Harper, Greg Harris, Camille Lilly, Theresa Mah, Robert Martwick, Christian Mitchell, Anna Moeller, Elaine Nekritz, Juliana Stratton, Silvana Tabares, Chris Welch, Ann Williams, Senators Omar Aquino, Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Daniel Biss, Melinda Bush, Cristina Castro, John Cullerton, Bill Cunningham, Don Harmon, Kimberly Lightford, Iris Martinez, Laura Murphy, Kwame Raoul, Heather Steans, and Patricia Van Pelt.

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