Invest in Kids is a cost-effective way for Illinois to help more children access a high-quality education. In 2017, my wife and I were part of a community effort to launch The Field School in Oak Park. The school was formed as a response to the widespread racial and socio-economic segregation of Chicago-area education. This segregation hurts us all, but children in poverty suffer the most.
Half of the seats at The Field School (now based in Austin) are reserved for children from low-income homes. Almost 70% of the school enrollment is children of color. The school is staffed by Christians, but families do not need to have any religious identity to attend. And last year, supported by small class sizes, a rigorous holistic curriculum, and parent resourcing, 77% of students were proficient in math and reading. It is hard to overstate the benefits of this education in the lives of these students and their neighborhoods, both today and for decades to come.
The Field School launched without the help of the Invest in Kids program, but we have benefitted from it since becoming eligible. This is a good investment from the state’s perspective. It is far less expensive to give tax credits subsidizing a scholarship at our school than to educate that student directly. And thanks to lots of volunteer help, an intentionally low-tech approach, and staff willing to work for less than they would make in public districts, The Field School is able to sustain a per-pupil cost between half and two-thirds that of District 97.
This trend is true across Illinois, and it ultimately spurs innovation. Not long ago, the directors of the public early childhood education program in Detroit visited The Field School to observe how we support learners from different backgrounds.
Many families on the West Side of Chicago support the Invest in Kids program because it empowers them to pick a school that suits their needs. Public schools, religious and non-religious private schools, therapeutic day schools — all of us, especially children, benefit when all options are supported.
Jeremy Mann, Head of The Field School