Private School Voucher Solution Floated By Senator Meeks

Is it a stunt, a sincere change of heart, or a turning point for city politics?  State senator and reverend James Meeks writes in the Tribune today that private school vouchers that would help pay for parochial or private tuition might be needed to give parents a way to get quality education for their children (and create real changes in the school district).


Voucher_logo1.gif

"For
the first time in my personal and political career, I am exploring the
idea of vouchers and charter schools to help facilitate choice and
enhance academic performance. Why should we continue to make
investments in a system that is bankrupt and weighed down with
bureaucracy?"

As you may recall, Meeks compared the Chicago Teachers Union to a street gang and last year urged poor Chicago public school parents to send their children to New Trier high school to enroll.  See the full commentary here:  Their blood is on our hands.

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  • At this point, CPS needs to try anything that might work. Vouchers are not a perfect solution, but they have worked in other cities- so I say- if CPS can't provide safe learning environments for its students, CPS should pay for them to go to a school that can.

  • Thanks for drawing attention to this, Alex. I met Sen. Meeks a couple of years back, and this is a real turnabout. I've blogged about it here: http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2009/10/29/why-national-democrats-are-like-wile-e-coyote/

  • I agree we should try anything that might work. That ain't vouchers.

    In Cleveland, Milwaukee and Washington DC they found that the test scores of kids who get a voucher are not statistically different from the kids who apply but don't get one. They also found that many kids who get one can't use it, because they can't find private schools that will take them or provide the special services they need (disabilities, English language learners, etc.)so essentially you've just diverted money that could have been spent on something effective and wasted it. And that doesn't even get into the fraud, waste and abuse for which these programs have become known.

  • This is basically the same thing I posted on another blog today.

    The Reverend Senator Meeks in his Tribune opinion piece is truly indignant over the killing of poor African American students in Chicago, which is understandable. He somewhat self righteously casts wide responsibility for the social conditions that have facilitated these murders. Among the guilty are

  • dear cpsmomtimes2:
    Vouchers wont stop students getting shot to and from school. no doubt the troubled and poor tudents who have disabilities and severe behavior problems will NOT get to go in ANY of these voucher schools.

  • at another site:
    By: Rod on Rev Meeks op-ed In the News: Thursday, Oct. 29

    The Reverend Senator Meeks in his Tribune opinion piece is truly indignant over the killing of poor African American students in Chicago, which is understandable. He somewhat self righteously casts wide responsibility for the social conditions that have facilitated these murders. Among the guilty are

  • Good stuff from Rod Estvan: ...Rev. Meeks does not in his opinion piece accept the argument that

  • Worth Repeating--thank you Rod--you should be CEO of CPS!
    Can someone get this to Meeks? How about to the Trib editorial?
    The Reverend Senator Meeks in his Tribune opinion piece is truly indignant over the killing of poor African American students in Chicago, which is understandable. He somewhat self righteously casts wide responsibility for the social conditions that have facilitated these murders. Among the guilty are

  • I'm opposed to vouchers on secular grounds (most of the schools that would be chosen are religious and I really don't want to pay for anyone's catechesis).

    But beyond that, the devil is truly in the details with vouchers. For instance: how do you prevent vouchers from being used by students already attending private schools (like Latin students). How do you determine that a school is actually teaching anything--does CPS have the staff to accredit schools? There have been cases of outright fraud with vouchers elsewhere, who's going to oversee that? What about ADA issues at the private schools? Does accepting public money (vouchers) make a private facility less private in as far as the rules that must be followed?

    How have vouchers worked in Milwaulkee?

  • jim broadway gives a view of meeks' proposal from a springfield perspective:

    Meeks files for vouchers, choice
    By Jim Broadway, Publisher, State School News Service

    http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102796725055&s=97&e=001jcGWUTNGnqTi2tP7hNUkHiV9dUezfe2zuy4cQXwaoBFp3vUNd-CZgM5ZZvwgv-Ds_Ud98NH6iNAiboQWIML4WotTwMivbdESmph7COOoj1KenUkp469kjKVCGm9O2fK-FrtKr3hIVxiNiRmSWDL5XYpr9oOKGO0viazKF3YXQqo=

    "For the first time ... I am exploring the idea of vouchers and charter schools to help facilitate choice and enhance academic performance. Why should we continue to make investments in a system that is bankrupt and weighed down with bureaucracy?" - Sen. James Meeks (D-Chicago)

    With that statement, included in a commentary the Chicago Tribune published Thursday, Meeks filed legislation Thursday afternoon that would:

    1) Create a voucher program under which parents could receive state funding to cover the cost of their children's tuition to private schools. (SB 2494)

    2) Remove the current limitation on the number of charter schools allowed in Illinois. (SB 2495)

    3) Codify "public school choice," a system in which any child who is a resident of Illinois would be able to attend any public school in the state without any non-resident tuition being charged. (SB 2496)

    It might seem that this man, the driving force for school funding reform for the last eight years, has reached the end of his rope, given up his quest even after his last and best effort - HB 174 - reached just one House concurrence vote from enactment.

    His anger that House Speaker Michael Madigan will not let his chamber vote on HB 174 is surely one of Meeks' motives for going over to the dark side, but his commentary focused most on dangers faced by CPS students on their way home from school.

    Frustration links violence to schools

    His commentary was entitled, "Their blood is on our hands." It deplored the street violence, brought to the surface of public awareness when Fenger High School honor student Derrion Albert was beaten to death in a melee caught on video.

    But he linked that violence to the deficits of urban schools serving poor and minority students, to the fact that their teachers are "least qualified" and most likely to be untrained in subjects they teach.

    So Meeks' change of direction should not be seen as an attack on all public school districts. It is mainly about the Chicago Public Schools. He's fed up with seeing students fail in the classroom and die on the streets. So his new proposals are surely more of a "statement" than something he expects will have a chance to be enacted.

    At the same time, if you read the bills you will find they are expertly drafted, correct in the details they would need to have the effects he seeks. If the bills sprout wings, they would not be slowed down by a need to address technical flaws. And his initiatives play into the hands of those who would profit from the "privatization" of public education.

    Meeks' voucher-charter-choice package cannot be advanced very soon. Today is the last scheduled legislative session day of 2009. Nothing can happen with the bills until the Senate returns to Springfield.

    Enjoy the coming holiday season. School advocates will begin a wild ride when the House and Senate reconvene in January. Meek's proposals will merely make the experience all the more tumultuous.

  • @299reader 12:02
    Careful. Blaming the students and parents for poor academic results is just "blaming the victims." You won't get very far with that argument. Bill Cosby's been preaching personal responsibility for years, but everyone calls him an Uncle Tom.

    Worse, you undermine the entire project of public education when you imply that caring parents are a pre-requisite for students becoming literate. If we can't put an expectation on schools to teach kids from broken homes how to read, why are we even paying for those kids to attend school in the first place?

    Involving parents so they take more responsibility for their kids' education might be a strategy to pursue, but that's often a tall order for parents who themselves were failed by the public school system.

  • Retired Principal said: Rev. Meeks is a pimp! Will parents be able to use the vouchers to transfer their students to Rev. Meeks school? Yes!

  • @299reader 11:37

    Sorry, I didn't include the link to the source in the second (continued) entry of Rod Estvan's comment regarding Meeks at another site. I think Rod was making that point (late in his comment at the other site - and that Meeks can't have it two ways - saying in public forums that it's not parents' responsibility while shouldering parents with responsibility in his own school. Take a look at the full comment to get the complete message Rod was making.:

    http://www.catalyst-chicago.org/notebook/index.php/entry/427/In_the_News%3A_Thursday%2C_Oct._29#1641

  • The Reverend/State Senator Meeks.

    Buddy you owe me and every ghetto teacher an apology. Far from
    The worst teachers those of us who have, and are serving the damaged
    Kids of Chicago are the very best. It took only three weeks for the horrible
    Consequences of purging an entire veteran faculty at Fenger to shock
    The world. The hand picked FNG

  • In reply to rbusch:

    Well, to give the good Rev. the benefit of the doubt, he may be referring to well-established statistics that show that when you rate teachers by well qualified, extremely qualified, unqualified (usually means running on provisional certification), or qualified, the schools with the lowest SES wind up with more unqualified and just qualified teachers than the higher SES schools. Given that teachers can teach whereever they want, this makes sense as teachers may not like continually butting their heads against the wall of highly segregated poverty.

  • Folks who say try anything don't know!!! That is what Huberman is doing.. something he doesn't know, school reform and understanding that each school has a professional community that needs to be supported to build their professional capacity, not only as an individual as well as a organization. Meeks has no clue as to the nuts and bolts on what is needed to improve schools.

    We know what works! Download and read the watershed technical report on what real successful school districts DO to support building professional communities in each school. http://www.srnleads.org/resources/publications/nsdc.html

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