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Why would someone block school reform in Illinois?

by john stephenson / /

Just when you think you've seen it all in politics, someone comes along and reminds you that the day is still young and full of possibilities.

In Illinois, where the House is on the verge of passing a historic bill (SB 2494) to create a school voucher pilot program to help rescue students in Chicago's chronically underperforming public schools, a State Representative is trying to stop it. While I'd expect opposition to a school voucher program from entrenched special interests like teachers unions who stand to lose their long-standing monopoly on power, what is striking about the opposition here is that the State Representative is none other than Roger Eddy, a Republican from Downstate Illinois and a school administrator. This supposed "conservative" is working hard to defeat the bill, even going so far as to cross question State Rep. Kevin Joyce, the Democrat who is the voucher bill's sponsor, on the House floor about funding for the program. Eddy claims he is concerned the voucher bill will diminish funding from other public schools, including those in the district he runs when he is not working as a legislator.

But even a cursory review of the text of the voucher bill (SB 2494) and Rep. Joyce's amendment to the same bill reveals that no school districts in Chicago or elsewhere in the state will lose funding if the kids eligible for vouchers, who are those in the bottom 10% of Chicago's schools, choose private over public schools. So why is Rep. Eddy going to these lengths to derail what is probably the best chance to reform some of the worst schools in the state? Why would a "conservative" stop a proposal advanced by Milton Friedman? Why would a school administrator stand in the way of a opportunity to do away with the unions' monopoly on power and give more power to parents to decide the best education for the children? One factor may be the $90,000 in campaign contributions he received over the last ten years from the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the Chicago Teachers Union. Rep. Eddy certainly has some explaining to do.

Hopefully, Rep. Eddy's colleagues will see through his opposition and do what's right for the children in Chicago's worst public schools by voting for SB 2494. If you live in Illinois and care about your children's education, click here to contact your state representatives and urge them to vote YES on SB 2494.