This week, Illinois lawmakers will once again vote on a school voucher plan. This time, the bill would create a pilot program in Chicago that would offer students in the worst public schools a voucher that they could use for tuition at a private school.
The voucher would be worth $3,600 -- the amount the State of Illinois gives to the school for the student's education. About 30,000 students would qualify.
School vouchers have been debated for years in Illinois, but now both sides have new ammunition: desperation and experience. Research shows that vouchers are not the educational cure-all that supporters had hoped for, but with so many schools failing miserably, more leaders are willing to let parents use public school money to fund private school education.
"It's a random event whether a child has a future in public education or not. That shouldn't be," said State Sen. Chris Lauzen (R-Aurora), who is a co-sponsor. "So I say open it up so that there are more options."
Opponents say vouchers drain money and talent from the public school system, and in the cities where vouchers have been tried and studied, they say there is no evidence they improve students' academic achievement.