Learn the facts about SB2494 below (you can also download the fact sheet here).
Does your legislator support SB2494? Find out more here.
Senate Bill 2494 creates a pilot program to give parents in Chicago’s lowest-performing and most severely overcrowded schools educational options. Each family enrolled in one of these schools will be offered a school voucher to cover qualified education expenses at a state recognized nonpublic school.
This program will come at no additional cost to taxpayers. As amended, the bill now guarantees that the voucher program will be paid for by Chicago Public Schools out of CPS’s portion of the education budget. The legislation creates a financial firewall between Chicago Public Schools and the rest of the state.
The maximum voucher will not exceed the amount of per pupil state aid received by CPS. At just under $4,000, the voucher will cover costs at most private schools in Chicago.
Students in failing schools will receive vouchers. Vouchers will be offered to students who attend the 48 schools that make up the lowest-performing 10 percent of CPS elementary schools; 37 of these 48 schools have been under state or federal sanctions for 9 consecutive years or more.
Students in severely overcrowded high-poverty schools will receive vouchers. Dozens of schools across Chicago are overcrowded. This program would provide the voucher option to parents of students enrolled in the 5 percent of schools determined by the Chicago Board of Education to be the city’s most overcrowded.
The Illinois Standards Achievement Test will be used to monitor student progress. By using the same test used to evaluate students in public schools, it will be possible to compare student progress on an apples-to-apples basis.
An official evaluation will be conducted. The Chicago Board of Education and State Board of Education will submit a report in December 2015 that will assess the academic benefits and financial impact of the program.
The Illinois State Board of Education will administer the program. The district must notify eligible families, disburse the vouchers and administer standardized tests.
The school choice program is constitutional in Illinois. Many legal experts, as well as precedent at the U.S. and Illinois Supreme Courts, indicate the program meets constitutional tests.
This legislation will not harm state taxpayers. It will not hinder other efforts within Chicago to improve education. And, most importantly, it will give parents in the worst-performing and overcrowded public schools a choice in their child’s education.
Studies using random assignment, the gold standard of social science,
consistently find that students using vouchers have higher
academic achievement than students who applied for vouchers but lost a
random lottery. This report summarizes all ten random assignment
studies of school voucher programs: 6 find statistically significant
gains when measuring the outcomes for all students; three others found
significant gains with important subgroups of students, particularly
African Americans. No study has found that any group of
students has done worse as a result of using a school voucher.
The Wall Street Journal has been closely following the fight for school choice going on in Illinois. This update, published on April 27, highlights the work of the Illinois Policy Institute and its director of education policy, Collin Hitt.