Stacy Davis Gates nurtures her child’s dream at private school, but wants it crushed for yours

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
September 13, 2023

Stacy Davis Gates nurtures her child’s dream at private school, but wants it crushed for yours

Chicago Teachers Union President Stacy Davis Gates has chosen to let her son “live out his dream” by putting him in private school, yet she and CTU have a long history of pushing the Illinois General Assembly to deny the same choice to other families.

Stacy Davis Gates is against school choice in theory – but not when it comes to what’s best for her own child.

Recently the president of the Chicago Teachers Union came under fire for choosing to put her own son in private school, all while advocating against Illinois’ only school choice program and earlier saying, “I can’t advocate on behalf of public education and the children of this city and educators in this city without it taking root in my own household.”

In defending her decision, she stated she and her husband made the choice “so [their son] could live out his dream of being a soccer player while also having a curriculum that can meet his social and emotional needs, even as his two sisters remain in Chicago Public Schools.”

There are currently at least 9,600 students from low-income families similarly living out their dreams in private schools because of the state’s Invest in Kids scholarship program. One estimate is for every child who receives a scholarship, about five children are waiting for one. But those scholarships will end – and the students’ dreams dashed – if lawmakers fail to extend the program beyond 2023.

CTU and Davis Gates want to kill the program “for good.”

The Invest in Kids program requires no public funding. The scholarships provided to low-income families are privately funded by individuals who are incentivized to donate by the tax credits they receive under the program. None of that money is diverted from Illinois’ education budget, which has received nearly $2 billion more in state funds since the scholarships started.

CTU’s advocacy against options for families is nothing new. In the six sessions of the Illinois General Assembly between 2011-2022, the union registered its public opinion on at least 50 bills related to school choice and charter schools. The union also has funneled more than $1.25 million to 88 current lawmakers in the Illinois General Assembly.

It didn’t seem to matter what kind of school choice program the Illinois General Assembly considered. CTU opposed it, filing an opinion against at least four bills, with only one passing, to create programs to provide students with scholarships to attend nonpublic schools. It also opposed at least four bills creating programs to provide students with vouchers to attend nonpublic schools.

As for the Invest in Kids Act, the union filed its opinion in favor of a bill limiting the tax credit potential for donors to the program, which would make donating to the program less attractive.

CTU also worked to stymie the growth of charter schools. Davis Gates herself signed the slip on at least two of those bills. Both would have raised the minimum funding amount received by public charter schools from their respective school districts, with Davis Gates and the CTU opposing both bills.

But Davis Gates’ own choice to place her son in private school demonstrates the hypocrisy of the union and its leadership. Chicago teachers know the value of private schools, with 39% of them making that choice for their own children – nearly double the rate for teachers nationwide and for regular Chicagoans, one study found. Other parents also want their children to live out their dreams at schools with better sports and academic programs.

Davis Gates can afford to make that choice. Other parents can’t.

And she doesn’t want impoverished parents to have that same option.

The Illinois General Assembly has one more chance to save the Invest in Kids program during its veto session starting Oct. 24. Contact your state lawmaker and ask where they stand on Invest in Kids scholarships for low-income families.

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