On Jan. 2, the first possible day to give to a new Illinois private school scholarship fund, people donated $36 million.
The most it can accept in a year is $100 million, so gaining more than one-third of the year’s total in a single day is hard to view as anything but a ringing endorsement.
The program allows a tax deduction of 75 cents for every $1 donated. The money then allows needy students to leave the public school system and seek a private education.
In an urban setting such as Chicago or East St. Louis, the program could be a lifeline for students with little hope of escaping failing schools and the attendant lifetime of low wages.
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Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner trumpeted the news, saying it proves Illinois wants school choice.
But state teachers’ unions have decried the program, saying it will take resources from troubled schools. The Chicago Teacher’s Union said it was tantamount to putting a time bomb on a school bus and driving it through school districts. Translation: We don’t want to lose bodies because those children mean cash.
Funny, coming from one of the groups from which students most need rescuing. The CTU is so callous to its failings — only one in four students can meet standards on state tests — that teachers would rather all youngsters be trapped in their educational dysfunction than to allow even a few to thrive in private schools.
This is a five-year test program in which donors invest $100 million and the state gives up $75 million in potential tax revenue — a $25 million private-dollar gain for Illinois education. The state spends about $7 billion a year on education, but the Chicken Littles of the teachers’ unions and many of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates are so threatened by losing 1.1 percent of other people’s money that they vowed to repeal the program.
How very enlightened of them to think parents should not be able to make choices about their children’s futures.