In December of 2007, the Illinois Policy Institute joined with the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation for a comprehensive poll on school choice. The results were significant. First, Illinois citizens know that the current system of government-run schools is failing. If given free choice, 4 out of 5 would choose a school other than a traditional public school for their children. 75% gave low ratings to Illinois public schools, with responses ranging from "fair" to "poor." Further, parents not only want more choices, but they are also open to a variety of ways to expand choice, including charters, tax credits and vouchers.
Unfortunately, while parents are enthusiastic about school choice, they also face a barrage of misinformation from public employee unions and other vested interests. Our baseline work in 2008 will help to reframe the debate on school choice, focusing on the merits of shifting control from the public school monopoly to parents. The Institute has developed focused, practical policy recommendations on how the state can expand charter schools (and lift the current cap on the number of charters) as well as individual tax credits up to $4000. In a state that spends approximately $11,383 per child while recently achieving around 30% proficiency in 8th grade reading and math, reform is desperately needed.
In the coming year, we will expand on our past work by developing partnerships across the state to work for school choice, as well as publishing a four-part primer on education in Illinois: a School Money Primer, a Privatization Primer, a Collective Bargaining Primer and an Alternatives in Education Primer. These publications will offer an invaluable, unassailable fact record on public education funding, contracting and performance in Illinois—and it will inevitably make a powerful statement in favor of school choice using the government's own data. The Illinois Policy Institute will continue to increase our work on behalf of school choice, serving as our state's leading voice for educational freedom in 2008 and beyond.
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