(The Center Square) – A new report on educational freedoms gives Illinois a failing grade.
The American Legislative Exchange Council 2023 Index of State Education Freedom measured all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on several categories: funding and financing for school choice programs, support for charter schools, homeschooling, virtual schooling and open enrollment policies.
The report ranked Illinois 39th in the country for school choice policies and issued an “F” grade.
Andrew Handel, director of the ALEC Task Force on Education, said it is obvious that parents want educational choices for their children, especially after pandemic school closures.
“They simply think that their student would learn better in a different educational environment, whatever the reason. We think that maximizing the choices and options available to families is key for policymakers,” Handel told The Center Square.
Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act is set to expire at the end of the year if not reauthorized by legislators. The program allows school choice scholarships funded by private dollars in exchange for a 75% state income tax credit. The scholarship dollars are awarded to low-income families to pay for private-school tuition. With it set to expire, Handel said Illinois received zero points in the funding and financing for school choice category.
“Illinois also got a zero in the charter school category,” Handel said. “There is a law there that is very restrictive in terms of charters.”
In August, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law that requires union neutrality clauses in all charter contract renewals, requiring all charter school operators to support a union’s attempt to organize its staff. Some call it a power grab by the Chicago Teachers Union.
Previously, ALEC published the Report Card on American Education, ranking the states based on a variety of performance indicators in K-12 education. The newly reimagined ALEC education report is “forward-looking and focuses exclusively on the policies each state has in place to ensure their students can access the best educational environment for them.”
“The only way to ensure that all students are put in the best position to succeed is to offer a variety of educational environments,” Handel said. “Parents, not bureaucrats, should be in charge of their students’ education.”