Every couple of years the opponents of public schools come up with a new idea for starving the perceived beasts. Their beasts are public schools and public school teachers and unions.
For a while the hot ticket was vouchers. Every right-wing think tank and pundit was pushing vouchers. In a few scattered cities, they got it.
For the students, things didn’t change much. The state legislatures continued to short urban and many rural school districts of funding. Every once in a while a study would show that kids going to private schools with vouchers weren’t doing much better than their buddies who were going to the neighborhood public school. And if you were a student with Special Needs, or an English Language Learner, your family would be crazy to send you to a private school, even with a voucher, since few had programs that addressed these needs.
Plus, defenders of public schools as democratic institutions made it politically unwise to spend tax money on private, often parochial, schools.
After a while, the Reformers changed tactics. Charter schools became the weapon of choice. As time has passed, charter schools are coming under greater scrutiny, and while still popular among anti-public school Reformers, recent scandals and studies have cost them some support.
Here in Illinois, we now see the rebirth of vouchers for Chicago. The renewed attempts to bring life back to the voucher movement is the clearest signal yet of the failure of the Duncan/Daley Renaissance 2010 charter, school closing, school turn-around strategy.
However, the real scandal is that in a year when the General Assembly has not yet passed a budget, is threatening to cut $1.3 billion in school aid, refuses to pass a tax increase of 1%, let along HB 174 which would raise three times that amount to fund schools and social services, they are considering spending $100 million on a voucher program for Chicago.