Illinois Coalition Proposes School Reforms

Published November 1, 1997

“Illinois schools are in desperate need of true reform” agreed fifty business, civic, and grassroots leaders who met in suburban Carpentersville on July 26 at the Illinois School Reform Conference. The group came together to reach accord on a list of 22 reforms that would, if adopted, benefit school children throughout Illinois–without raising taxes.

“Putting more money into a broken system is a disservice to the kids in this state who are depending on adults to make sure they have the tools to succeed,” declared Conference co-host Jack Roeser, president of the Family Taxpayers’ Foundation.

The proposed reforms cover four areas: Parental choice, restoring the focus of government education, reforming regulations that impede the teaching profession, and reforming state regulation of education. Participants agreed that the government monopoly over education in Illinois needs to face competition from the private sector . . . and that the curriculum and policies of non-government schools and home-school operations need to be safeguarded against increased government interference.

The group offered several recommendations for expanding parental choice, including Minnesota-type tax credits for educational expenses; the phase-in of a statewide voucher system, with vouchers redeemable at government, private, and religious schools; alternative schooling options; and protecting the right of parents to educate their children at home.

Many recommendations targeted reform of regulations that impede the teaching profession, where holding teachers accountable for performance is rendered ineffective by teacher tenure laws and tenure-linked pay scales. Recommendations included a review of tenure laws, alternative certification for both teachers and administrators, steps to improve classroom discipline, and pay-for-performance for public school teachers.

“We want to take the manacles off good teachers and good administrators so they can succeed in making our education system the envy of the world,” said Roeser.

“What we’re doing is picking up the mantle of ‘reform’ spoken of so often by those who advocated a tax increase, and pushing for the real thing,” explained Roeser.

Groups represented at the Conference included the National Federation of Independent Business, Illinois Citizens for a Sound Economy, The Heartland Institute, Family Taxpayers Foundation, and the Northwest Tax Watch.