Putting Students First: A Tale of Two States
Christopher M. Jozwiak /
It’s been over two weeks since the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) won out over the best interests of children. In stark contrast, however, is Illinois’s neighbor Indiana, which has reformed its school system to put students’ needs front and center.
In 2011, Governor Mitch Daniels (R) put into place a series of policies to improve accountability and expand school choice in the Hoosier State. The new teacher evaluation system treats teachers like professionals by rewarding those who demonstrate exceptional performance. As a result, teachers are setting goals for their students’ learning like never before.
The school choice plan provides scholarships to children from low- and middle-income families to attend private schools of their choice. Today, Indiana has one of the largest school choice programs in the nation. Roughly 60 percent of Hoosier students are expected to be eligible for the program next year.
And families are embracing this opportunity for educational choice. This school year, more than 8,500 students applied for opportunity scholarships after a national first-year record of 3,900 students received scholarships last year.
Additionally, charter schools continue to flourish in Indiana. Student enrollment has doubled in the past three years, and more than 3,500 students are on waiting lists for open seats at charter schools.
Notably, while the union strike raged in Chicago, families scrambled for other educational options. Some were able to find slots in charter schools, but Illinois’s educational options are few. A broader system of choice would not only limit union control but empower parents to choose schools that best fit their children’s needs.
In his 2011 State of the State address, Governor Daniels said:
We must begin to honor the parents of Indiana. We must trust them, and respect them enough, to decide when, where, and how their children can receive the best education, and therefore the best chance in life.
A record number of Americans are voicing support for school choice. It is no surprise that more states are expanding choice options. Illinois should provide the same opportunities.
Christopher M. Jozwiak is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.