Mike Fourcher tells us that school vouchers could be coming to Illinois. That’s been a key objective of the Republicans for a long time, and the Governor may have introduced them as he performed his amendatory veto of the education funding bill last Tuesday. But they’re not called vouchers. They’re called “tax scholarships.”
Fourcher, who’s a founder of the subscription news service The Daily Line, tells us that “There’s a whole fight about giving credits to charter schools and private schools.”
And here’s how it would work for parents with kids in non-pubic schools, according to Fourcher. “Essentially that they would get, the term that’s being used are tax scholarships, that every student that goes to a charter school or a private school qualifies as a tax scholarship for those schools for people that send their kids there.”
It would be a tax write-off. “A tax scholarship is another way of saying voucher,” he explains. “And I think that is what’s going on is okay, you know, we will get Chicago more money, but there’s going to be some kind of school voucher program that might go in, and that is the dream of a lot of conservatives.”
The bill that passed in the Legislature, it must be understood, is significant in so many ways. Despite all the headlines about partisan rancor and stalemate, both Democrats and Republicans managed, over many months, to hammer out an agreement that funds schools more fairly and lets schools rely less on their municipality’s already-stressed property taxes.
But the Governor claimed that the bill was unfairly generous to Chicago and amended it with his veto. That ignited yet another partisan fight. But Fourcher says he thinks there could be a resolution.
“Probably the week of the 15th,” he predicts.
Why? “A lot of people were already planning on being in Springfield that week anyway, because that’s the week when the Democrats and Republicans have their big days (for the State Fair) in order to kick-off the campaign season. That happens on the 16th and 17th.”
Lori Lightfoot has been reappointed to the presidency of the Police Board. (We didn’t know that for sure as we were taping, but there had been broad hints earlier.)
Her reappointment was a difficult choice for the Mayor. Firing her would have shown him as weak – unable to withstand the criticism a woman he appointed has been leveling against him for his slow response to calls for police reform. But reappointing her would anger the police union and many rank-and-file officers.
As negotiations begin between the City and the union, Fourcher says, despite the issues of reform, this bargaining will center around economic issues.
“And if you read the briefs that the City has prepared, which I have, the City almost always makes a case about how the economics of the time are horrible and terrible,” he explains. “And the last time it went to arbitration was right after, it was right after the Bush administration and it was an economic disaster. It was a bad time, and so the City made the case that well this is a terrible time and so we need to keep wages down. And so there was a brokering of what went on, and this is traditionally what the City has done. The City has tried to keep contract costs down and in return it’s given away a lot of things to police officers.”
The critics claim that it’s those “things” – such as rules calling for the destruction of records, and the waiting time for officers to officially discuss their involvement with shooting incidents, for example – that are in desperate need of reform.
We also discuss the proposal to bring 20,000 housing units to the long-vacant South Works property on Chicago’s south side, with a massive lakefront footprint. Barcelona Housing Systems thinks it may have the answer in modular housing units that don’t have basements and can be built quickly and relatively cheaply.
But, we point out, 20,000 units would be a lot for Chicago to absorb.
“It would be,” Fourcher agrees. “Particularly in a part of the City which has been losing people. The south side of Chicago has been losing a lot of people and the south works borders South Shore on the northern part and it borders South Chicago on the southern part. South Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the City. So you know, there’s a big question mark whether or not that’s something that’s really going to be able to grow, are people really going to want to move there.”
“And Chicago is really beginning to experience black flight,” he continues. “Black citizens are moving out of Chicago to go to places like Birmingham and Atlanta and Nashville and Houston. I have this conversation with a lot of black professional friends, where do you want to live? And there was an excellent book, The South Side, written by Natalie Moore, a large portion of her book is about how housing for African Americans is really not an investment, it’s often a money-losing deal…if you were going to try and build a new house in Englewood it’s very hard to build a new house for less than maybe $150,000, just the cost of doing it. But houses in Englewood are selling for $75,000-$80,000, so maybe this modular housing idea is going to be able to allow them to build housing that is affordable and in reach for a lot of people.”