Vouching for vouchers in the South Loop
one man's monetary quest
07/28/2011 11:08 AM
First, let's get one thing straight: Dr. Dave Larsen isn't a right wing nut, a tea partyer or a birther. He has Obama signs in his garage from the last election, ok!
But he does believe in school vouchers. And if you stop by and talk to him for a bit, you might, too. (If you don't already.)
Larsen, who is the director of the Bright Promise Fund located in the Daystar Center at 16th and State (home of one of my favorite coffee spots, Overflow Coffee Bar), raises money for seven religious schools in Chicago--including Daystar School, located in the same building. The other six are in Chinatown, Humboldt Park (which has two), Roseland, Lawndale and Kenwood. But he'd like to put himself out of business. He believes that parents should be given a government voucher and be able to send their kids to any school they want. Ultimately, the philosophy goes, the good schools would burgeon and thrive and the bad ones would die on the vine. Competition! Survival of the fittest schools!
People against vouchers think the idea is anti-democratic and elitist and that the sharpies would take their vouchers and get their kids into the top schools (so what else is new?) and the bad schools would be left to those who aren't so sharp.
I spent a recent morning talking to Larsen at Overflow and he's very convincing--in spite of the fact that he'd have to find a new job if he got his way.
He is a big fan of the movie "Waiting for Superman," a heartbreaking documentary that shows what parents--who truly care about who teaches their kids and where they learn--go through around the country trying to get their kids a good education. In a review he penned, Larsen says the movie is "clearly pro-teacher, mildly anti-union, often perversely funny given what's at stake...and very well done. It's a crash course in economics, politics, history and the important role of education in society. But most of all it's about children and how we must help them flourish."
In the meantime, Larsen will continue to raise money for seven urban Christian schools, hoping that soon he will be forced into retirement by a change in public policy.