Illinois says no to ‘scholarship’ school choice

By   /   April 10, 2013  /   No Comments

By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog


SPRINGFIELD  —  Illinois will not be getting a small scale school voucher program this year, or anytime soon based on Wednesday’s vote in the Illinois House.

Lawmakers trounced a plan from Chicago Democratic state Rep. LaShawn Ford that would have created a scratch-off lottery ticket

NO CHOICE: Ford wants to give kids a shot at getting out of failing schools.

that would help pay for “scholarships” for a handful of students.

The “scholarships” would be vouchers in all but name, and allow students to have the state pay for a year’s tuition at a qualifying private school.

“Most representatives in the body are not suffering from poor quality education in the districts that they represent like (I do),” Ford said as he tried to make the case for his proposal.

Just 13 of 108 representatives voted with Ford.

Suburban Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives from Wheaton voted for Ford’s doomed plan not because she liked the specifics of the legislation, but because she wants Illinois to adopt school choice.

“School vouchers and educational choice determined by the parents,” Ives said. “I think it’s something we need on a statewide level.”

Ford has tried before, and failed, to get even the slightest bit of school choice through the Illinois General Assembly.

In addition to some very skeptical lawmakers, Ford faced opposition from the state’s largest teachers’ union, the Illinois Education Association.

“If we are going to let all of those teacher unions tell us how to vote on improving education, then I understand,” Ford said on the House floor Wednesday. “But I am telling you, they have a job to do, and they are failing our kids.”

Ford’s plan would have only applied to students in communities, by zip code, that rank as the top 20 sellers of lottery tickets.

Suburban Republican state Rep. David Harris said Ford’s plan would hurt all schools by taking money away from the common school fund.

Other lawmakers wondered why Ford wanted to limit the scope of school choice. The top 20 zip codes for lottery ticket sales are almost all in the city of Chicago.

Ford suspected the zip code and finance questions were just excuses.

“I don’t think people’s ‘philosophy’ would allow them to vote even if I (changed the legislation),” Ford added.

There are over 100 charter schools in Illinois, but there are also thousands of students on wait lists to get into those schools.

The state does not have any form of voucher program.

Ford said he’ll try again next year.


You can contact Benjamin Yount at [email protected] or find him on Twitter @ILWatchdog.


Ben formerly served as staff reporter for