To the editors:

Patrick Keleher’s plan to have Illinois taxpayers fund private schools [Neighborhood News, February 14] is a Rube Goldberg contraption that will not fly.

Mr. Keleher wants the taxpayers to pay for private schools, but he doesn’t want the public to have any say in how those funds are used. That “taxation without representation” is as tyrannical now as it was in 1776 when we fought a war against it.

He tries to dismiss the church-state issue. Yet that is a central concern, as over 90 percent of nonpublic schools are denominational. The state and federal constitutions forbid tax support of religious institutions.

There are 339,096 students in Illinois nonpublic schools. Private school vouchers worth $1,000 each would cost the state’s taxpayers $339,000,000. Vouchers worth $2,000 would cost taxpayers $678,000,000 per year. Would this come from higher taxes or be taken from already skimpy public school budgets?

Mr. Keleher forgets that what “school choice” really means, in the real world, is that nonpublic schools choose which teachers to hire, which kids to admit, which religion to teach the students. Nonpublic schools right now practice forms of discrimination in admissions, hiring, and curriculum that the law does not permit in public schools.

Putting Mr. Keleher’s plan into practice would divide children and families throughout the state along religious, ethnic, ideological, social class, academic ability level, and other lines. Public schools would become little more than dumping grounds for those children not accepted by the nonpublic schools. Isn’t one Northern Ireland enough?

Let’s improve our public schools, not destroy them.

Edd Doerr

Executive Director

Americans for Religious Liberty