Scott Reeder: School choice should be an option for all families

Scott Reeder: School choice should be an option for all families

SPRINGFIELD — The subject of school choice has come to the forefront in recent weeks with the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Education Secretary.

When folks debate the merits of school choice, I can't help but smile.

The fact of the matter is we already have school choice in America.

Bureaucrats sit in school administration buildings and draw lines on maps to determine where your child will go to school in a particular school district. They choose. You don't. And school district boundaries drawn before students — and most of their teachers — were born, play an even bigger role in determining what services will be available for students.

The caliber of education a child receives should not be determined by a family's ZIP code.

For example, the rural school district I live in near Springfield has a limited curriculum. My neighbors tell me youngsters wanting to get into competitive math and science curriculums at top universities are often left disappointed.

Fortunately, my family can afford to send our daughters to a Catholic school in Springfield that offers a more demanding curriculum.

But many folks, whether they live in inner cities or rural areas, just don't have that option.

They lack the money to choose, so their kids are just stuck.

Don't get me wrong, Illinois has some excellent public schools. I attended public schools and universities from kindergarten through graduate school. For the most part, my experiences were good. But like most students, I had some excellent teachers and I had some weaker ones.

Education Secretary DeVos has advocated for voucher programs where money follows the student.

In other words, vouchers could be issued to parents and they could choose where their youngsters learn. They could choose between private, religious, public, online, charter or home-schooling options.

It seems a fair solution.

I've yet to meet a parent who wants to see their child fail.

But teacher unions oppose this idea. They fear it will result in less money going to public schools.

That could happen, but only if public schools fail to compete.

Most folks are quite happy with the public schools their children are attending.

But not all are.

For example, a 2004 Fordham Institute study found that 39 percent of Chicago public school teachers send their own children to private schools. That's compared to a national average of 12 percent of all children who are educated privately.

Think about that.

Four out of 10 Chicago teachers are willing to pay money to keep their kids from attending the schools where they teach.

That speaks volumes.

Those teachers have school choice because they can afford it.

Why shouldn't all families be afforded the same opportunity?

Scott Reeder is a veteran statehouse journalist. He works as a freelance reporter in the Springfield area and produces the podcast Suspect Convictions. He can be reached at

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Sid Saltfork wrote on March 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Check out Scott Reader via the internet.  He is nothing more than a paid propagandist for the right-wing party.  This is just another attempt to con the readers, and voters.

America has become even more divided with the lack of funding public schools, and the "I don't want my kids going to school with those kids".  Do you really think that government vouchers is better than funding public schools? 

There should be no government hand-outs to private schools.  Private schools have the right to not admit disabled students.  Many private schools are religious, and violate the "church and state separation".  If people want their kids to go to a private (charter) school, that is fine.  The taxpayers should not fund it though.  Tax money should fund public schools.  Enough with the hand-outs to the Rich.

chief21 wrote on March 13, 2017 at 12:03 pm

It's MY property taxes, and it's MY child. Let me deceide where my child gets the best education. Forcing parents into the only choice is Bad for students.
 Throwing the red flag with " He's right wing" does not dismiss a parent's right to choose for their ( not the state's) child.

C in Champaign wrote on March 14, 2017 at 9:03 am

This is not a debate about "govenrment handouts" for private schools. No one is suggesting that the government should blindly give money to private schools. What supporters are saying is that the money that a school recieves for each student, should be allowed to be redirected to a school that the parents of that student prefer. It is not a handout, it is earned by the schoool that recieves it as it was chosen by those who have an individual student's interests at heart. It could be based on location, facililties, quality of science programs,  language or the arts... or it could simply be a better fit, a more apporopriate environment for an individual student. 

Let's drop the whole Church and State line. It's B.S. smoke and mirrors, and we all know it. Just think of all of the Hospitals affilliated with various religions there are around the country. We don't deny government payment for healthcare to them based on their religious affiliation. When choice is an option, we allow people to choose which hospitals, and doctors they wish to see. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm

Private schools are just ...Private Schools.  This country, and the states have not properly funded education for years.  

Tax money pays for the schools.  If a portion of the tax base decides that "their tax money" should be spent on their kid going to a private school, there is less money to support the public schools.  Where people got the idea on what their tax money should, or should not be spent on is absurd.  "I want my tax money to be spent on only the National Parks Service."  "I want one half of my tax money to be spent on NASA."   The whole concept of where, on what, and for whom taxes should be spent will continue as long as this country places greed, over fellow citizens. 

If you want your kid to go to a private school, pay for it yourself as before, and pay your taxes in case the private school goes bankrupt before your kid graduates.  Same applies to universities.... Trump University !!!

chief21 wrote on March 16, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Same old argument....These are OUR tax'll accept the only choice in town for  your children. WE know what's best, not you.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 17, 2017 at 4:03 pm

It is not "OUR" tax dollars.  It is tax dollars for the continued functioning of the common government.  I may not want tax dollars going to Israel, but it in "my" government deciding to do so.  I do not get to pick, and choose on what, where, or why tax money is spent.  It is congress, the state legislature, and municipal government that decides.  I have an impact on it by voting like I plan to do against Rodney Davis due to his health care bill vote.

If you want to be sure that your money goes to a charter school, pay them direct.  Don't expect the lower middle-class, and middle-class to short their kids "public education" so your kid can have a "private education".  The arguement for charter schools really comes down to "I don't want my kid going to school with those kids."