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Compass [Summer 2013] Power of School Choice

Compass [Summer 2013] Power of School Choice

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Many families in Illinois feel trapped when they are forced to send their kids to failing schools. Under the current public school system, these families are limited in their choices and many have no power to leave. Fortunately, a redesign of educational systems is happening in some states and cities, such as Indiana and Milwaukee. But not in Illinois. A voucher program could make a difference for thousands of kids and families in our state. That is why the Illinois Policy Institute’s dedication to school choice is the spotlight of this issue of Compass. Illinois doesn’t have such a voucher program – yet. So as you read this edition, keep in mind those families and kids with no power to exit.
Many families in Illinois feel trapped when they are forced to send their kids to failing schools. Under the current public school system, these families are limited in their choices and many have no power to leave. Fortunately, a redesign of educational systems is happening in some states and cities, such as Indiana and Milwaukee. But not in Illinois. A voucher program could make a difference for thousands of kids and families in our state. That is why the Illinois Policy Institute’s dedication to school choice is the spotlight of this issue of Compass. Illinois doesn’t have such a voucher program – yet. So as you read this edition, keep in mind those families and kids with no power to exit.

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Published by: Illinois Policy Institute on Jun 18, 2013
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Inside: Majority rules: Liberty Justice Center wins voting case Illinois Policy Institute | summer 2013

Power of school Choice
John Tillman The battle for school choice in Illinois lives on Fighting the progressive tax Exposing the next major tax grab in Illinois Pizza with a purpose Chicago entrepreneur grows restaurant business and invests in people


4 6 8
John Tillman: The fight for school choice lives on



Illinois Policy Institute CEO reflects on a 2010 Illinois voucher bill and the need to continue pushing for educational choice.

Democracy restored: Liberty Justice Center vindicates constitutional rights of city of Macomb citizens

21 22 23 24 25

Legislative updates: a look at what’s happening in Springfield

LJC won its first major victory in a case centered in Macomb, Ill.

The Illinois Policy Institute fights hard for free market policy in the state capital. Here’s the inside scoop on what’s happening in Springfield.

Fighting the progressive tax means promoting a prosperous Illinois

15 16

Illinois pensions: a system built upon lies

Executive Vice President Kristina Rasmussen discusses the fight against a progressive income tax in Springfield.

In March, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Illinois with securities fraud. The truth is the state’s pension systems have been operating dishonestly for years.

It’s time for Illinois politicians to embrace school choice

EAGnews.org Publisher Kyle Olson is passionate about school choice – and says it’s time Illinois politicians were, too.

Cover story – The power of choice: school choice changes lives

This story outlines school choice legislation in neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin, and follows the journey of an Indiana family whose five children have access to private schools through their state’s voucher program.

Budget Solutions 2014 offers Illinois legislators a roadmap to economic recovery

Illinois News Network: disability pension investigation preview

Read more about the Illinois Policy Institute’s alternative budget and pension reform plan.

Journalist in Residence Scott Reeder reports on pension disability abuse in his first major investigation for ilnews.org.



Liberty gone digital: leading the pack with consumable policy news and research

Obstructed views: Illinois’ 102 county online transprency audit

Member spotlight

Chicago native Lisa Tesarik shares why she supports the Illinois Policy Institute.

Check out great tweets from our growing community.

One of the best protections against corruption is transparency – and the Illinois Policy Institute’s 10-Point Transparency 102 county online transparency audit yields disappointing results.



Betting on Illinois: Pizza with a purpose

Policy and litigation center updates

Check out photos and details from our “Preparing for the Known and Unknown” event with CrossFit CEO Greg Glassman and more.

Chicago entrepreneur and restaurateur Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau is expanding his presence in the Windy City.

Find out what our policy and litigation centers have been working on.

26 27

Becoming a member of the Illinois Policy Institute is an investment in freedom Expert spotlight: Kristina Rasmussen

Kristina Rasmussen is the executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute.

About us The Illinois Policy Institute inspires changes in hearts, minds and laws through its mission to promote personal freedom and prosperity in Illinois and America. As a leading independent, 501(c)(3) research and education organization, the Illinois Policy Institute generates positive and sustainable policy solutions for citizens and lawmakers that help unleash talent and entrepreneurial ability.
190 S. LaSalle St., Suite 1630, Chicago, IL 60603 312.346.5700 | 802 S. 2nd St., Springfield, IL 62704 217.528.8800

The power of school choice Editor’s note
Daniel Anthony | Compass Editor-in-Chief

Many families in Illinois feel trapped when they are forced to send their kids to failing schools. Under the current public school system, these families are limited in their choices and many have no power to leave. Fortunately, a redesign of educational systems is happening in some states and cities, such as Indiana and Milwaukee. But not in Illinois. A voucher program could make a difference for thousands of kids and families in our state. That is why the Illinois Policy Institute’s dedication to school choice is the spotlight of this issue of Compass. Illinois doesn’t have such a voucher program – yet. So as you read this edition, keep in mind those families and kids with no power to exit. Here are some of the other highlights from this issue:

Cover story The power of choice: school choice changes lives
“School choice programs such as charters and vouchers are taking education by storm. Study after study has shown choice programs improve educational outcomes, even in some of the country’s most challenging communities. But more importantly, these programs are giving parents and students choice and control over their education – allowing them to find a place to learn that best suits their personal and unique needs.”

Pizza with a purpose Chicago entrepreneur grows restaurant business and invests in people
“Ultimately, profit is what matters in terms of a business’ success. But that’s not the way you should judge success. I also judge success by doing right by the people who work here and our neighborhood – our goal is to create success for the employees and the community we’re involved in.”

Obstructed views: 102 county online transparency audit yields disappointing results
“One of the best protections against corruption is transparency, and in today’s digital age one of the easiest ways for government to be open and accountable is through posting public documents on the Internet.”

—Brian Costin, page 17

—Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau, page 12

—Diana Rickert, page 8

An Illinois Policy Institute publication
Editor-in-Chief Daniel Anthony Creative & Art Director Teresa O’Leary Managing Editor Hilary Gowins Production Director Teresa O’Leary



illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 3

The fight for school choice lives on
John Tillman | CEO
In May of 2010, the Illinois House of Representatives voted down the 2010 voucher bill. My hopes had been high for this bill, because I knew what school choice would mean for Illinois families. Vouchers mean freedom from failing schools; the possibility of students and families choosing their own path instead of being stuck with the failing status quo. I knew this bill would provide hope and possibilities for thousands of Illinois students, and at the Illinois Policy Institute we worked tirelessly to pass this voucher bill. But in the end, the Illinois General Assembly failed to make choice a reality. I relived this heartbreak during a recent vacation when I re-read a piece I had published in the Chicago Tribune shortly after the 2010 vote (see page 5). The emotions I felt after re-reading this article reminded of something an acquaintance once said about an amazing speech he had heard. He said, “I don’t remember exactly what was said, but I will never forget how it made me feel.” For me, that feeling was raw emotion, the emotion of inspiration that originally motivated me into action on school choice. The irony here is that remembering the specific words and phrases did not matter – it was the depth and sustained feelings that mattered. And yet it was the words, and the skill of their delivery, that created the emotional connectivity that created action. We need the words – the policy – but we need the emotional storytelling that sticks most of all. I will never forget how struggling moms and dads made me feel in their desperate search for a pathway out of violent cities with school cultures that indoctrinated failure and hopelessness rather than aspiration and achievement. That’s why the fight for educational freedom remains even more important today. The odds are long and the foes are strong. Unions such as the Chicago Teachers Union, or CTU, have become more radicalized and militant. Yet among the more than 20,000 teachers at Chicago Public Schools, or CPS, are golden apples who are changing kids’ lives for the better. In their classrooms are children who will one day become adults; some of them will have aspired to high standards and will have achieved great things. And when they think back on their CPS days, they will not think of the failures, they will not think of the violence, they will not think of CTU President Karen Lewis and they won’t remember a lot of specific things they heard in class. Instead, they will think of the feelings, the hopes, the dreams, and their desire to aspire and achieve that some miraculous golden apple of a teacher laboring in the CPS system made happen for him or her. Part of teaching and part of all classrooms must be to face the truth. The truth in Chicago and around too many schools in Illinois is that there are not enough golden apples who are changing kids’ lives for the better. Sometimes it is because the people who are teaching should not be teaching – the challenge of Chicago and all the dysfunction are just too much for some. And sometimes great teachers are subsumed by the dysfunction of the broken educational bureaucracy and they become broken themselves. In the end, it doesn’t matter why this happens. What matters is that we cannot sentence another generation of students to failing schools and difficult futures. We cannot wait for the fairness and justice due to Illinois’ children. We must empower the children and their parents with the freedom to seek the best teachers and educational opportunities, wherever they may be.

4 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Voting in favor of bad schools
Originally published on May 12, 2010, in the Chicago Tribune She was a quiet, dignified AfricanAmerican, perhaps early 40s. Her eyes had spark and she seemed determined, both good signs. But the desperation in her voice was overpowering. “I need money to move.” I was just 23 years old then, a rookie management trainee learning how to interview prospective sales people for the call center where I worked. “Why do you want to move?” I innocently asked. After all, no one wakes up in the morning seeking a call-center career. They choose to work in call centers because they can make good money quickly — if they can sell. I knew that desperation turns many quiet people, like this woman, into tenacious salespeople. “I need to move to get my kids away from the gangs,” she answered. It was 1982 and I was sitting in an office just north of Eight Mile Road, the border between Detroit and Southfield, Mich., made famous by the rapper Eminem. I knew a bit about what the woman meant; I lived in a marginal neighborhood near Wayne State University. Bad things happened regularly. Looking at her address, I knew her neighborhood was much worse. “Have you ever sold anything before?” “No, but I can learn.” I don’t remember much more about her. I don’t even remember if I hired her. But this is how I first learned about school choice. The memory of that woman came flooding back to me last Wednesday as I listened to the Illinois House debate the fate of 30,000 children languishing in some of Chicago’s worst performing schools. Senate Bill 2494 would have established a pilot school-voucher program in Chicago to provide poor students with “opportunity scholarships” to attend better private schools. The bill had passed the Illinois Senate with bipartisan support. This should have been a layup for Democrats and Republicans in the House. It wasn’t. It wouldn’t have cost suburban schools money, it would have held Chicago Public Schools accountable for the failure of its schools and it would have given parents a fighting chance to give their children a better education. I sat stunned when it became evident that the bill would fail. I thought of that quiet, determined woman from 1982. It was a heartbreaking moment. Illinois parents were pleading for a chance to send their children to better schools. “You can’t have it,” said the Illinois House of Representatives. The bottom line is this: The Illinois Education Association opposed this bill, as did the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union. Keep in mind who said yes to kids, and who said yes to union lobbyists. November is not too far off.

Educational freedom, which can only be accomplished with parental choice and empowerment, is one of the great moral causes of our time. We have the moral high ground and we must carry the fight forward to set the children free. To learn more about what we are doing to get closer to this goal, please visit illinoispolicy.org/ schoolchoice. And next time you drive by a school in your neighborhood – you can see it in your mind’s eye now – think about the teachers there. Then think about the schools kids who are entering every day on the south and west sides, in Decatur, in East St. Louis, in Rockford – all around this state. Would you send your kids there instead of the school you drive by every day? If the answer is no, then this is a cause you should take up today.

John Tillman | CEO
illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 5

Fighting the progressive tax means promoting a prosperous Illinois economy

Kristina Rasmussen | Executive Vice President

“Trust me.” That’s how some Illinois politicians plan on selling their next tax grab to Illinois voters. Backed by government worker unions, many state lawmakers want to put

a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would replace Illinois’ flat income tax with a progressive rate structure. But here’s the catch – the amendment wouldn’t define what that new structure would look like. The final brackets and rates could be far more punitive than initially advertised, and there would be nothing to stop them from getting worse as time goes on.

6 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Illinois politicians don’t exactly have a sterling record when it comes to living up to a simple “truth in advertising” standard while pushing new laws. The fake spending cap and “temporary” tax hike passed in 2011 are prime examples of the dishonest marketing too commonly used to advance unpopular ideas in Springfield. A progressive tax would be bad for Illinois’ taxpayers and the economy as a whole, as detailed in the Illinois Policy Institute’s special report, “Progressive income tax: Money grab disguised as tax reform,” in October 2012 (learn more at illinoispolicy.org/taxgrab). In fact, under a progressive tax 85 percent of Illinoisans would see their taxes go up. But beyond the numbers, it is worth stressing that a progressive tax is – at its core – morally unfair. A progressive tax is predatory and discriminatory, purposefully taxing some people, and some income, at a different rate than others. There’s no good reason a dollar that’s earned at $55,000 would be taxed more than a dollar earned at $50,000 – yet that’s what a progressive tax would do. Income earned at higher levels would go increasingly to the Tax Man. We know that a progressive tax is designed to feed off of “soak the rich” inclinations; but the truth is that a progressive tax actually hurts the poor and disadvantaged. Why? Sound tax policy should reward effort, saving, investment, risk-taking and entrepreneurship to promote self-sustaining prosperity. When you punish those impulses with a progressive income tax, you get fewer opportunities opening up for the very people so desperately seeking to rise. Paul Guppy, vice president for research at the Washington Policy Center, puts it this way: “A state-level progressive income hurts the poor and working class people because it makes their state less attractive to business investment and job opportunities.” Guppy knows this issue well; his organization helped to defeat Initiative 1098, an income tax proposition on Washington’s November 2010 ballot. “It is much easier for investors to move money than people. A progressive state income tax creates a strong incentive for job-creators to move business growth to other states, and for existing employers to either relocate or to plan any business expansion in other parts of the country,” Guppy said. Studies indicate that states with lower tax burdens, lower marginal tax rates and less progressivity have more robust economies with strong incentives to live, work and start new businesses. And many states are thriving with no state income tax at all. Texas boasts no state income tax, along with an unemployment rate that is nearly 3 percent lower than Illinois’. Its workforce is double that of the Prairie State’s.

Mike Solon, a former policy adviser to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and who is now with Gramm Partners in Washington, D.C., puts it this way: “A progressive tax fight is about the battle between economic goals and political goals. If we want workers to have the best tools, if we want researchers to find miracle drugs, miracle computers and miracle sources of energy, if we want businesses to create jobs, expand wealth and generate steadily growing incomes in an ever-changing world we need to use capital to serve its most efficient and effective use.”   “After centuries of every conceivable variation, the last millennium ended with a general opinion that free markets do it best.” So what’s the alternative to yet another tax grab? Illinois’ elected officials can and should do much more to control government expenditures. Their road map is Budget Solutions 2014, an alternative balanced budget released by the Illinois Policy Institute that funds core services, pays backlogged bills and repeals the 2011 income tax hike one year early (learn more at illinoispolicy. org/budgetsolutions2014). The good news is that there is still time to stop this idea. Illinois legislators would have until next May to refer a progressive tax on to the 2014 ballot, giving proponents of economic freedom plenty of time to fight back. Get involved by reaching out to your legislator on this issue. Tell him or her that the best way to help all Illinoisans – including the poor and disadvantaged – would be to eliminate the income tax altogether.

Kristina Rasmussen | Executive Vice President

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 7

The power of choice: school choice changes lives
Diana Rickert | Director of Media Relations

Roman and Sheila Griffin grew up in Gary, Ind. They knew firsthand that Gary wasn’t the best place to raise a family; the school system was struggling and the city’s violent crime rate is nearly triple what it is statewide. So in 2002, the Griffins moved their young family to the nearby suburb of Merrillville, Ind. Their oldest son, Roman Jr., enrolled at the local public school. His experience started off well, but by the time Roman Jr. reached middle school he had become a C-student.   “It got to the point where we noticed no one could keep his attention,” Roman Sr. said. “He’s not slow, he’s not dumb. He’s always been a very smart kid. But he needed more one-on-one type teaching versus a classroom of about 30 children at a time.” A mortgage, two car loans and three more siblings at home meant the Griffins couldn’t afford to send Roman Jr. to a private school that could better accommodate his unique learning style. But fortunately, around this same time, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels had just enacted a school voucher law that would give families like the Griffins money to spend at a school of their choice. The Griffins heard about the program at church. There would be an application process, and only a limited number of students would be accepted to the program. But they wanted to throw their hat in the ring, so they applied – and prayed. About a month before the next school year started, the Griffins were elated to learn that the three oldest of their five children had been accepted to the program. They left the neighborhood public school and enrolled at an area private school, Ambassador Christian Academy. “Within his first year, Roman went from [being] a C-average student to missing honor roll by just one point,” Roman Sr. said. “The teachers were more hands-on. The class sizes were smaller, so they were able to work with him one on one. The teachers communicated at a very high level with us and with him.”  All five of the Griffin’s children have been approved to participate in Indiana’s school voucher program next year. They’re among nearly 10,000 students statewide who are participating in Indiana’s program, and among thousands more who participate in educational choice programs nationwide. 

8 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

School choice programs such as charters and vouchers are taking education by storm. Study after study has shown choice programs improve educational outcomes, even in some of the country’s most challenging communities. But more importantly, these programs are giving parents and students choice and control over their education – allowing them to find a place to learn that best suits their personal and unique needs. 

The nation’s first voucher program was started in Milwaukee in 1990. Dr. Howard Fuller, a distinguished professor of education at Marquette University and a longtime education reformer, was instrumental in getting this program off the ground.  The fight for this law and for more educational opportunity started long before the 1990s. Fuller describes this fight as the “struggle for educational equality,” which he said he joined in 1976. He felt called to this line of work after his own experience attending a public school in Milwaukee as a child. “We live in a society where, if you have money, and schools do not work for you, you’re either going to move to a community where they do work, you’re going to take your kids out and put them in private schools or you’re going to find the best tutorial service you can for your kids,” Fuller said. “So at the end of the day, the people who are forced to stay in schools that do not work for them are the poorest families who do not have the resources.” This, he says, is a question of educational justice. Over the course of his lengthy career, he’s often posed the question: Should America be a place in which only those with money have the ability to choose a good school for their kids? To him and others in Milwaukee, the answer was no. So in 1990, the city launched a voucher program for city students.  Today, the program allows children from low-income and working-class families in Milwaukee the opportunity to use tax-supported vouchers to escape the public school system – where the graduation rate is lower than 50 percent – and attend a private school.  

Roman Griffin Jr.

EDUCATIONAL DELIVERY Indiana is not alone in its school choice efforts. According to the Foundation for Educational Choice, based in Georgia, there are 26 school choice programs in 16 states and Washington, D.C. More than 190,000 students nationwide use public funds to attend the private school of their choice.

Dr. Howard Fuller

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 9

CHOICE OVERCOMES SCRUTINY Programs such as the one in Milwaukee have not been without scrutiny, however. Despite empirical evidence showing the benefits of such programs, many in the media continue to describe the results of choice programs as “mixed” or “debatable.” Meanwhile, choice programs are continuously under attack by advocates for teachers unions and monopolized public education.  In Milwaukee, for example, the voucher program has been in existence for more than 20 years. Currently, more than 25,000 students are enrolled in the city’s private school voucher program and nearly 19,000 more attend Milwaukee’s public charter schools. Yet as recently as January 2013, antichoice activist Diane Ravitch penned a commentary piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper calling for the state to end its choice programs and spend taxpayer dollars only on the Milwaukee Public Schools system. COULD ILLINOIS BE NEXT?  Education reformers on both sides of the aisle have long lamented Illinois’ confusing and ineffective formulas for funding public education. “Illinois’ current education funding system is convoluted, fiscally unsustainable and rife with problems,” said Josh Dwyer, director of education reform at the Illinois Policy Institute. While Illinois has not seen the level of reform that neighboring Wisconsin and Indiana have experienced, there is movement on the education front. In the Illinois General Assembly, two prominent education reforms were proposed. While they did not pass and become law, this demonstrates that there’s movement behind education reform law. Senate Bill 1248, sponsored by state Sens. Matt Murphy, Bill Brady, Michael Connelly and Jim Oberweis, would have provided vouchers to students in underperforming or overcrowded schools in Chicago.  Meanwhile, the Opportunity Scholarship Act, Senate Bill 1777, would have provided scholarships to students in underperforming or overcrowded schools in Cook County through scholarship granting organizations. Connelly has sponsored this bill. Ultimately, families and students in Illinois would benefit most from a total voucher system in which parents are empowered to choose an educational provider that works best for their unique needs. “Not only does [a voucher system] allow money to follow the child, it produces better outcomes for students,” Dwyer said. “It removes the costly barrier for families looking for a better education for their children, and it allows parents to find a school that works for them – plain and simple.” Wrote Ravitch: “Vouchers and charters had their chance. They failed. Now it is time to build a great public school system that meets the needs of the children of Milwaukee … it is impossible to achieve these goals in a city with three competing school systems. It is entirely possible to achieve when there is one school system that becomes the focus …” While Ravitch’s call to action was strong, the data to back up her point is not. Shutting down Milwaukee’s choice programs literally would result in kids not finishing high school or going to college.   Researchers Patrick J. Wolf and John F. Witte have studied educational outcomes in Milwaukee’s choice program at the request of the Wisconsin state government. Wolf is 21st Century Endowed Chair in School Choice at the University of Arkansas and Witte is a professor emeritus of political science and public affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. According to their research, school choice in Milwaukee had a “modest, but clearly positive effect on student outcomes.” Wolf and Witte found that students who participated in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program graduated from high school and “both enrolled and persisted in four-year colleges at rates that were four to seven percentage points higher than a carefully matched set of students in Milwaukee Public Schools.” From a practical standpoint, that means there were 32 additional high school graduates who went on to college out of the 801-student ninth grade class of 2006. 

Diana Rickert | Director of Media Relations
10 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

WATCH: Parents across the country work hard every day to give their families a better life. The Griffins – a family from Merrillville, Ind. – share how their state’s voucher program gave their children a brighter future.

Liberty gone digital: leading the pack with consumable policy news and research
According to Gallup, Americans’ distrust in the media hit a new high last year, with 60 percent saying they have little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. Our team made a commitment at the start of 2013 to deliver our trustworthy policy research in a more bite-sized format. And our policy team’s hard work is already producing results — the Illinois Policy Institute’s blog was named one of the best state-based political blogs by The Washington Post’s “The Fix.” Our digital community responded by boosting our Twitter interactions by more than 50 percent. During the first quarter, we averaged nearly 30,000 Twitter interactions with more than 15,000 unique users. To date, @illinoispolicy has a community approaching 25,000 followers. Here are some of the most interesting tweets from the past few months.

Follow us
John Tillman

@johnmtillman Kristina Rasmussen

Executive Vice President


Matthew Paprocki
Senior Director of Government Affairs

@mtpaprocki Brian Costin

Here are four examples of great tweets from our community:
“Are we beholden to the public school system...or to the public school child at any cost?”


Director of Government Reform

Daniel Anthony
Vice President of Marketing & Communications


Jacob H. Huebert
Associate Counsel, Liberty Justice Center

I’m so sick of those manipulative IEA (IL Education Assn) ads on the radio. How much teacher dues is spent on those ads?!


Diana Rickert
Director of Media Relations


Ted Dabrowski
Vice President of Policy

Originally, Government had to fight for every penny they took. Today we have to try and hide our pennies from them.


Jonathan Greenberg
Vice President of External Relations

@greenbergjl Josh Dwyer

Illinois needs money..if they tax a 200k earner at 5% that’s 10k..if they raise that to 11% how much is that?, 0 he moves

@joshuajdwyer Paul Kersey @paulkerseyIL

Director of Education Reform

Director of Labor Policy

Benjamin VanMetre
Senior Budget & Tax Policy Analyst

Be sure to follow @illinoispolicy and make your voice heard.


illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 11

Betting on Illinois

“Betting on Illinois” is a series that chronicles the stories of the entrepreneurs who are making Illinois great again. The series will highlight the passion that Illinois entrepreneurs possess, the importance of competition and the tension between burdensome government regulations and entrepreneurial growth.

Pizza with a purpose: Restaurateur Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau believes in Illinois’ future
Hilary Gowins | Managing Editor
Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau doesn’t just make pizza. Through his Chicagobased business, Dimos Pizza, he also cultivates talented employees. He opens his doors to local schools. He helps foster enthusiasm and excitement within his community. That’s because, to Syrkin-Nikolau, business isn’t just about making money. He believes it’s about what he calls “purposeful profit.” “Ultimately, profit is what matters in terms of a business’ success,” he said. “But that’s not the way you should judge success. I also judge success by doing right by the people who work here and our neighborhood – our goal is to create success for the employees and the community we’re involved in.” 12 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

That’s why he offers full health benefits to his salaried employees – a rarity among owners in the restaurant industry. He also provides a 401(k) with an employer match, as well as paid time off. Syrkin-Nikolau has found that investing in good people makes the difference in an industry where the customer experience matters. When he started the business in 2008, Syrkin-Nikolau only had a handful of employees. As time went on and business grew, he brought on more and more team members, utilizing his best workers’ strengths by putting them in positions where they could be successful. And Syrkin-Nikolau has his eyes set on expanding Dimos’ horizons. This spring, he opened the doors to a second location in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Syrkin-Nikolau was partially drawn to the neighborhood because of the story of the Wicker Brothers, for whom the neighborhood was named. “Their idea was to make a place where people of all economic backgrounds can live and succeed,” Syrkin-Nikolau said. “That’s a goal I can get behind.” The Wicker brothers’ vision for Wicker Park is different from how many people view Chicago’s reputation – as a city

tainted with corruption. Syrkin-Nikolau said that some of the legislation set up to protect the city from corruption actually hinders people like himself, who want to grow business. “You end up running into a number of challenges because of how things were in the past and how things were undertaken to fight corruption,” he said. “While it’s great to not have corruption, it’s better to have policies that foster growth.” “It would be nice to see Illinois be a place Abraham Lincoln would be proud of,” he said. “Seeing people flee the state is not something he would have been super excited about. The obvious goal is to create a business and recreational environment that is inviting, that people want to participate in – so that people feel they can make a life for themselves here.” Fortunately for Chicago pizza lovers, this city is already a place where SyrkinNikolau is making a life for himself – and his business. “One of the most exciting things about Chicago is that a lot of people move here because they’re excited about living in a big city,” he said. “It’s really a siphon for the Midwest. You get people from all Big Ten schools, people from other major metro areas, and they’re all excited to be here because the city has potential. “… For us, business is always better when the Cubs are in season. You get a lot of people coming in from out of town, the suburbs. It’s exciting to see them experience the product for the first time. A lot of people can’t believe their eyes. You know you’ve got this new group of people who are excited to experience all things Chicago.” And customers who stop by Dimo’s know the experience is anything but typical – Syrkin-Nikolau and his staff create menu options ranging from mac-and-cheese pizza to Reuben pizza to chicken-and-waffles pizza. “The most exciting thing about being in business is that it’s a creation process,” he said. “And if you create something successful, people will be able to see that and be a part – and if you do it really well, the by-product is profit. And with that, if you choose, you can give back any number of ways.”
Watch: Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau shares his recipe for success in our featured Betting on Illinois video.

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 13

Democracy restored: Liberty Justice Center vindicates constitutional rights of city of Macomb citizens
Diane Cohen | Of Counsel, Liberty Justice Center of the Illinois Policy Institute
The Liberty Justice Center of the Illinois Policy Institute celebrated its first major victory in April, with a court ruling that upholds the results of a city election in Macomb, Ill. In February, the city of Macomb held elections for several city offices, including the 2nd Ward alderman seat. Western Illinois University student Steven Wailand, 21, was a candidate in that race and faced Kay Hill, an incumbent alderman who was appointed by Macomb’s mayor. Wailand received 17 of the 33 votes cast in that election – or 51.52 percent of the vote. However, city and county officials refused to declare Wailand the winner of the election, claiming that a majority required “a majority plus one vote” even though that alternative definition was nowhere to be found in the city municipal code, special charter, Illinois municipal code or any other documents. Rather than seating Wailand, the city held a runoff election on April 9. After hearing about Wailand’s case, the Liberty Justice Center stepped in and took his case to court pro bono. Through emergency litigation, the Liberty Justice Center was able to secure a temporary restraining order prior to the April 9 runoff election to stop the city from installing anyone other than Wailand to the office of 2nd Ward alderman. After allowing time for the city to fully respond, the court made a final ruling in the case on April 26. In his final ruling, McDonough County Judge Rodney Clark said it is “not logical to have a person receive more than 50 percent of the vote but yet, not be the winner. This is not how America decides who should be elected.” Clark ordered the results of the April 9 election null and void, saying in his ruling that the follow-up election “should never have taken place.” The court ordered the Macomb city clerk to notify Wailand that he was elected to the office of 2nd Ward alderman and to administer the oath of office at the Macomb City Council meeting in May. Wailand, who works part time in addition to a tackling a full course load, said he ran for 2nd Ward alderman so that he could contribute to and make a difference in his community. He now has that opportunity. This case stands as a reminder that we must remain eternally vigilant in the protection of liberty from government’s arbitrary enforcement of the law. The Illinois Supreme Court has recognized that voting is “the expression of the people of their will” and is “fundamental to a viable form of government.” This ruling reaffirms the citizens of Macomb and all Illinoisans’ constitutionally protected right to vote and have their votes counted.

Steven Wailand

For more information on the Liberty Justice Center, visit libertyjusticecenter.org.

Watch: Hear more about Wailand’s case in his own words.

14 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Illinois pensions: a system built upon lies
Ted Dabrowski | Vice President of Policy
Illinois politicians have no shame. The state has an extensive history of jailed governors and pay-to-play politics. Now it can add securities fraud to that list. Illinois is already the third-most corrupt state in the nation, according to a report by the University of Illinois’ Institute for Government and Public Affairs. But in March, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the state with securities fraud. From 2005 to 2009, the state was found guilty of lying to prospective bond buyers about the potential insolvency of the state’s five pension funds. Government officials failed to disclose how the state’s pension scheme, dubbed the Edgar ramp after its designer, former Gov. Jim Edgar, “significantly underfunded the state’s pension obligations and increased the risk to its overall financial condition.” That’s because he punted everincreasing payments into the future in exchange for smaller payments in the years after the bill passed. It’s only the second time the SEC has brought charges against a state, the only other instance being New Jersey in 2010. The sad thing is the state has been lying to government workers and taxpayers for decades about the condition of the state’s pension systems. Under new accounting rules, Illinois’ pension funds have set aside only a quarter of the money they should have in their coffers, meaning the funds are only one major stock market correction away from insolvency. The SEC’s charges helped bring about some sunshine to those lies. Unfortunately, the state admitted no wrongdoing in the SEC indictment and nobody is going to jail. That means the fraud charges and calls for real reform are likely to fall on deaf ears. Instead, Illinoisans are still at risk of getting more pension “fixes” that perpetuate the problem from the same bureaucrats who created the problem in the first place. These fixes would still leave Illinois taxpayers and state workers with a broken pension system built on faulty assumptions. Writer Andy Kessler shed light on another fatally flawed state retirement system in Stockton, Calif., in a recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal. He wrote that the city’s bankruptcy “may expose the little-known but biggest lie in global finance: pension funds’ expected rate of return.” This lie is in full operation in Illinois. The state’s pension system is banking on returns of more than 8 percent each year to pay the overly generous benefits it has doled out during the past two decades. If those returns don’t pan out, it’s either bankruptcy for teacher retirements, taxpayer bailouts or cuts to core government services. The second big lie is that there’ll be enough money in the future. State politicians ignore that more and more people are retiring and living longer, while the taxpayer pool that must pay the benefits is shrinking. The current system promises retirees fixed amounts for their ever-longer retirement lives, along with annual, automatic increases. The current system is simply not sustainable. And now the same government that’s brought the pension system to the point of insolvency wants taxpayers and state workers to fall for the next big lie – that a government guarantee to fund pensions will end Illinois’ pension crisis. In several proposals for pension reform, politicians want to legislatively obligate taxpayers to guarantee those lies. That’s right – they want taxpayers to guarantee payments to a pension system that’s based on out-of-control assumptions and run by bureaucrats. They want taxpayers to put skyrocketing state worker retirement payments, through a pension funding guarantee, ahead of funding for education, health care and public safety. There is only one way to finally end the lies when it comes to pensions. And that’s to end the current pension scheme and to remove the politicians from state worker pensions altogether. A $100 billion shortfall, SEC charges and a system built on lies means lawmakers have lost their right to represent state workers and taxpayers. Instead, the state should embrace a system that gives state workers control of their own retirements. That system shouldn’t call on taxpayers to perpetually bail out the ever-increasing debt based on these lies. And the new system shouldn’t shortchange the poor and disadvantaged every time pension payments are put ahead of funding for schools, the sick and the safety of Illinois’ streets. The Illinois Policy Institute has proposed such a plan based on a 401(k)-style plan similar to those in the private sector. State Reps. Tom Morrison, R-Palatine, and Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, as well as Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove, have sponsored the plan, which saves more than any other plan that’s been offered. Even more, it is the only plan that finally puts an end to the crisis. Will it be difficult for a plan like this to eventually win over fake reform? You bet. But passing real reform is often difficult – because it’s not based on lies.

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 15

Budget Solutions 2014 offers Illinois legislators a roadmap to economic recovery
Ben VanMetre | Senior Budget and Tax Policy Analyst
For too long political leadership in Illinois has ignored the basics of good public policy – balancing the budget and limiting spending. Illinois hasn’t had a balanced budget since 2001 and spending per capita has grown three times faster than inflation since 1990. Now Illinois is suffering the consequences. The state ranks 48th in economic outlook, 45th in GDP growth and 47th in entrepreneurial activity. Lawmakers have used nearly every fiscal maneuver and budgeting gimmick possible to avoid real reform. Their solution of more borrowing and taxing to prop up ever-increasing levels of spending has failed Illinois’ families, businesses and entrepreneurs. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich dumped $10 billion of borrowed money into the state’s broken pension system. Gov. Pat Quinn followed suit – borrowing another $7 billion over two years in an attempt to solve Illinois’ pension crisis. Then lawmakers pushed through a record $7 billion income tax hike in 2011 they said was designed to pay down the state’s bills and right Illinois’ fiscal ship. And now they’re considering borrowing another $2.5 billion to free up some room on the state’s credit card. That’s not what real reform looks like. It’s time for Illinois to quit pursuing fake reforms supported through borrowing and higher taxes. The Illinois Policy Institute’s Budget Solutions 2014 offers the comprehensive pension and spending reform necessary for a true Illinois turnaround. “A plan like this can stop the onslaught of credit downgrades and instead put Illinois on a path towards economic growth and prosperity ... Hardworking taxpayers deserve this fiscal responsibility from their leadership. We can accomplish these changes, and we must. In doing so, we will lay the groundwork for a true economic turnaround in Illinois,” said state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton. The Illinois Policy Institute’s plan cuts the unfunded pension debt in half and includes a defined contribution plan as the main pillar of its reforms while protecting already-earned benefits for state workers. The plan achieves these bold outcomes by swapping out the state’s current defined benefit program for a predictable and manageable 401(k)-style retirement plan, freezing future cost-of-living adjustments until the system is 100 percent funded, aligning the retirement age with Social Security, eliminating the irresponsible repayment ramp and making local governments responsible for paying the retirement payments they dole out instead of dumping this responsibility on the state. This is the only proposal that solves Illinois’ pension crisis and gives government workers the secure retirement they deserve. But pension reform alone will not solve Illinois’ fiscal mess. Lawmakers must modernize the way they budget and spend in Illinois. The reform plan outlined in Budget Solutions 2014 calls for a real balanced budget requirement – one that requires spending incurred during a fiscal year to be paid for with revenue from the same fiscal year. It also calls for a spending limit tied to inflation and population growth. Budget Solutions 2014 also returns $7 billion to taxpayers by repealing the 2011 income tax hike early and pays down the state’s $9.3 billion in unpaid bills by 2016. These reforms are made possible by implementing structural spending reform – including returning the state’s primary education fund to its original intent by eliminating inappropriate subsides, empowering Medicaid patients with choice by building on the success of Florida’s Medicaid reforms and eliminating ineffective revenue sharing programs. In order for Illinois to even begin moving in the right direction, political leadership must discern what government can and should be doing, and return to the basics of good public policy – spend within its means and operate under a balanced budget. Budget Solutions 2014 provides Quinn and the General Assembly with the alternative budget and reforms needed to make Illinois prosperous again.

16 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Obstructed views: 102 county online transparency audit yields disappointing results
Brian Costin | Director of Government Reform
One of the best protections against corruption is transparency, and in today’s digital age one of the easiest ways for government to be open and accountable is through posting public documents on the Internet. Unfortunately, most Illinois counties need to dramatically improve when it comes to online transparency. The Illinois Policy Institute recently audited all 102 counties in the state for online transparency using a 10-Point Transparency Checklist. The checklist includes a recommendation for local governments to post contact information for elected officials and administrators, information on public meetings and guidelines for citizens to access public information through the Freedom of Information Act. The checklist also recommends financial information such as budgets, audits, expenditures, employee compensation, contracts, lobbying and tax information to be posted online. The Institute found most Illinois counties are severely deficient when it comes to posting basic participatory and financial information online. Here are some of the overall transparency findings: • 22 Illinois counties do not have a website. • 90 out of 102 existing county websites failed the 10-Point Transparency Audit. • Only three counties out of 102 scored a 90 percent or higher: Kane (100 percent), DuPage (90.8 percent) and Will (95.4 percent). • 12 counties violated the Open Meetings Act for failure to post a calendar, agendas prior to meetings and minutes of meetings online. • 27 counties were in violation of Freedom of Information Act laws for failing to post instructions on how to file a FOIA request. • In four categories (expenditures, compensation, contracts and lobbying), more than 90 counties out of 102 had failing grades.

Average score out of 10
Contact information Public meetings Public records Budget Audits 5.3 4.2 3.9 2.7 2.9 Expenditures Compensation Contracts Lobbying Taxes 0.9 0.5 1.4 1.0 2.7

10-Point Transparency Checklist: Performance by Category

Contact information pass-54 fail-48

Public meetings pass-38 fail-64

Public records pass-38 fail-64

Budgets pass-25 fail-77

Audits pass-30 fail-72

Expenditures pass-7 fail-95

Compensation pass-3 fail-99

Contracts pass-10 fail-92

Lobbying pass-10 fail-92

Taxes pass-26 fail-76

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 17

Overall online transparency scores of Illinois counties
Jo Daviess 39.8 Carroll 49.1 Whiteside 27.4 Stephenson 43.2 Winnebago Boone 41.2 47.6 Ogle 31.7 Lee 48.1 DeKalb 60.9 McHenry 56.4

Lake 86.0

Kane 100 Kendall 47.0

DuPage 90.8

Cook 65.2

Rock Island 83.7 Mercer 9.5 Henderson

Henry 40.8 Stark 7.5 Knox 29.6 Peoria 53.5

Bureau 8.5

12.6 Putnam

LaSalle 44.2

Grundy 25.1

Will 95.4 Kankakee 52.0

100 99-90 89-80 79-70 69-60 59-0 No website

Marshall 27.4 Woodford 25.2 Tazewell 46.0 McLean 44.4 DeWitt 15.8 Macon 43.7

Warren 14.5

Livingston 69.7 Iroquois 50.2 Ford 10.3

Hancock 6.5

McDonough Schuyler

Fulton 23.7 Mason 49.9 Cass Morgan 11.3 Menard 23.6

Adams 43.9

Logan 32.1

Champaign 68.1 Piatt 16.9 Moultrie 12.5 Douglas 33.1 Coles 10.5 Cumberland 15.0 Jasper

Vermilion 35.9

Brown 5.0



Sangamon 38.9 Christian 12.5

Edgar 5.5 Clark 12.0 Crawford 19.0 Lawrence 1.5
Wa ba sh

Greene Jersey 1.1 Macoupin 76.4 Montgomery 41.9 Bond 2.5 Clinton 17.0 Washington 7.9 Perry Fayette 17.2

Shelby 6.3 Effingham 17.8 Clay 15.5

Wayne Jefferson 0.1 Franklin 6.1 Williamson 15.3 Johnson 6.3 Massac Hamilton White 13.9 Gallatin Hardin

Monroe 24.4 Randolph 10.0

Jackson 22.8 Union 52.4
Alex and er

Saline Pope

Pulaski 2.5

18 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org


Cal hou n

Madison 81.6



St. Clair 60.4



102 10
3 Public records 4 Budgets 5 Audits 6 Expenditures 7 Compensation 8 Contracts 9 Lobbying 10 Taxes


The Illinois Policy Institute recently audited all 102 counties in the state for online transparency using a 10-Point Transparency Checklist, and found most Illinois counties are severely deficient when it comes to posting basic participatory and financial information online.


1 Contact information 2 Public meetings




(out of possible 100)

90 counties failed. Only three counties scored a 90% or higher.

had failing grades in this category. Government employee compensation is also the No. 1 budget area for 99 counties most counties in Illinois, yet it is the lowest scoring of all 10 transparency categories. were in violation of FOIA laws for failing to 27 counties post instructions on how to file a FOIA request.

All 10 categories within the online transparency audit have annual components and scoring an 82.5 percent on the audit can be achieved by posting only the annual type of documents.


counties violated the Open Meetings Act for failure to post a calendar, agendas prior to meetings and minutes of meetings online.

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 19

Policy and litigation center updates
The Illinois Policy Institute leads the charge for liberty through its strategic litigation and policy work, championing the free market perspective throughout the state with a strong presence in the Statehouse and at our office in Chicago. From school choice to pension reform to labor policy, the Illinois Policy Institute has been hard at work promoting policy that will better the lives of all Illinoisans. The following are highlights of some of our most recent work.

Labor policy
• Testified twice in favor of House Bill 2689, which would require that government union contracts be made public and a hearing held before contracts are ratified. • Published “The Labor Book: A guide to Illinois government unions,” a report on government union membership and finances.

Education reform
• Hosted four events on Illinois’ broken education finance system and the need for school choice. • Lobbied legislators to support Senate Bill 1777, a personal and corporate tax credit scholarship program. • Advocated against House Bill 494 amendments 1 and 2, which aimed to put a moratorium on schools with virtual learning components.

Liberty Justice Center
• Won a major victory in Wailand v. City of Macomb, vindicating the constitutional rights of alderman candidate Steven Wailand and all Macomb voters. • Published a legal analysis of the pension funding guarantee found in several proposed pension “reform” bills. • Filed Illinois Liberty PAC, et al. v. Madigan, et al. in U.S. District Court, which seeks to strike down Illinois’ campaign finance act because it violates Illinois citizens’ rights to free speech protected by the U.S. Constitution. Filed an amended complaint in May. • Is currently litigating Crowe v. city of Bloomington, which seeks to strike down city practices and procedures that unconstitutionally barred our client, Julie Crowe, from operating her vehicle-for-hire business in Bloomington. We are also litigating Beavers Donuts v. city of Evanston, which seeks to strike down a city of Evanston ordinance that prohibits anyone from operating a food truck who does not own a brick-and-mortar restaurant in the city. Victories in these cases would vindicate our clients’ and all citizens’ rights to earn a living free from irrational and arbitrary government regulation.

Good government Budget & tax
• Released Budget Solutions 2014, a comprehensive alternative budget that lays out pension and spending reform for state and local governments. • Released a report that shows why the cost-shift under 401(k)-style plans – not pensions – would be good for school districts. Under this plan, school districts would pay their share of employee retirement costs – not the state. • Published letters to the editor in the Chicago Tribune, The State-Journal Register and The Bugle opposing the progressive income tax. • Gave a presentation at the Mendota Civic Center titled “Illinois’ next tax fight: why a progressive income tax will hurt Illinois.”

• Announced partnership with Metra to improve website transparency. • Released policy paper titled “Obstructed views: Illinois’ 102 county online transparency audit.” • Testified in support of House Bill 3312 to improve local government transparency standards. • Recognized 38 Illinois agencies for meeting transparency standards during Sunshine Week.

20 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Legislative updates: a look at what’s happening in Springfield
Matt Paprocki | Senior Director of Government Affairs

The pension debate dominated Springfield’s political discourse this spring, but many other issues – such as the ongoing fight against a progressive income tax – still loom large. The Illinois Policy Institute is having an impact in promoting free market issues in the state’s capitol on all fronts, working to proactively introduce legislation that would support the free market and opposing legislation that hinders economic development. During the most recent legislative session, the Illinois Policy Institute reviewed more than 6,000 bills and filed positions on more than 300 bills. That means that the team has reviewed every single piece of legislation that was proposed by every single lawmaker in the state. Reviewing bills before they are assigned to a substantive committee is critical because it allows the Illinois Policy Institute to proactively support or oppose legislation and meet with committee members before hearings take place.

Below are some of the major initiatives the Illinois Policy Institute influenced: Progressive tax opposition – House Resolution 241 This is the Illinois Policy Institute-drafted resolution expressing opposition to a progressive tax. A progressive tax would increase taxes on 85 percent of income tax filers. This opposition effort is championed by state Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills, and 46 other legislators signed on as co-sponsors. Comprehensive pension reform – House Bill 3303 Though the discussions on pension reform have entered a stalemate, the Illinois Policy Institute introduced a comprehensive pension reform bill, House Bill 3303. HB 3303, sponsored by state Rep. Morrison, R-Palatine, was heard in the House Personnel and Pensions Committee with 259 individuals, organizations and corporations filing witness slips supporting it. Only 10 slips were filed in opposition. Charter school moratorium – House Bill 494, floor amendment #1 In March, state Rep. Linda Chapa La Via, D-Aurora, introduced a bill that would have enacted a three-year moratorium on the creation of any charter school that utilized virtual learning. The Illinois Policy Institute opposed this legislation, and lobbied and educated members of the Illinois General Assembly on the issue of school choice. Though this bill ultimately became law, the pressure applied to legislators resulted in the bill being amended and the three-year moratorium was reduced to one year. The Illinois Policy Institute will continue aggressively promoting free market principles in Springfield.

illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 21

It’s time for Illinois politicians to embrace school choice
Kyle Olson | Publisher, Founder and CEO of EAGnews.org America is supposed to be about freedom. One of the founding principles of our country is that we are naturally endowed with the inalienable right to choose how we want to live our lives. We drive the cars we want. We shop where we want. We live where we want. But many children have never had the opportunity to attend the schools that they and their parents might prefer. For decades, indeed generations, millions of kids have been assigned to attend government-run schools based on where they live. Too many of those kids have been stuck in substandard schools, where there is little or no hope of gaining the type of education necessary to prepare for the modern world. In states where school choice is becoming the norm – Indiana, Wisconsin and Lousiana, for example – that problem is not as prevalent. Many students from lower-income families have the right to use state vouchers to pay for private school tuition. Students in those states can escape from the cycle of failure that exists in many public school systems. Kids in states like Illinois have far fewer options. Freedom of choice is obviously the key to education reform. Unfortunately the nation’s powerful teachers unions and their allies are doing their best to stop the school choice movement before it has a chance to spread and bring hope to more families and communities. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis summed up the union position at a recent “Occupy Department of Education” event in Washington, D.C., when she said: “The problem is we are in times when people believe that the market is always right … The market always has a solution for the problems. Now the problem with that is when you look at market solutions for schooling problems and certainly publicly funded public education, then what you start looking at is that you raise up the level of the individual. So it’s just what my individual kid needs, not what’s good for kids, but what my kid needs.” What Lewis means is the individual is bad and the collective interest is good. Instead of letting parents and students choose the education that best fits their needs, we’ll sentence all students to mediocrity – or worse – because everyone should be “equal.” It’s not as if Lewis and the teachers union have much credibility. Lewis spouts on and on about corporate interests “ruining” Chicago Public Schools, but the tragic fact is that there isn’t much left to ruin. Recent data shows only 20 percent of Chicago eighth-graders are proficient in reading and math and the graduation rate is about 63 percent. How could more school choice possibly hurt in this city? This is the question before the citizens of Illinois. Will parents allow a bureaucracy to continue to dictate what is best for their children? Many states have made the bold decision to expand choice and competition within the government education system. They’ve given parents and students – not unions and other special interest groups – power and resources. As a result a lot of children from lower-income neighborhoods are receiving quality instruction at private and charter schools. And the increased competition for students has forced a lot of traditional public schools to re-examine their priorities. That’s a very healthy development for a lot of schools that have been too comfortable for too long. But that’s only happening in states where the public has demanded change and state officials have been forced to respond. This is why your involvement matters so much.

22 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

An engaging and hard-hitting investigative reporting news website in Illinois. Uncovering waste, fraud and abuse on state, municipal and local levels. Political intel | Statehouse news coverage | Weekly column
Journalist in Residence Scott Reeder’s first investigation dives into the oft-abused world of duty-disability pensions. Escalating numbers of Illinois police and fire workers are receiving these disability pensions – and the average local police and fire pension fund is only 54 percent funded, according to a Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability report released in April. Unfunded liabilities for the police and fire pension funds for all Illinois municipalities outside Chicago are $7.5 billion. “This is the next major financial crisis facing Illinois,” said state Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno.

To read the full story, visit ilnews.org.
illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 23

Member spotlight
Lisa Tesarik Chicagoan finds firmer policy footing through Illinois Policy Institute activity
After President Barack Obama was first elected in 2008, Chicago native Lisa Tesarik decided it was time to get involved politically. Most of her friends liked Obama’s rhetoric and were enthusiastic about his promises of hope and change. Tesarik wanted to learn more about the issues – to be able to defend her ideals of self reliance and small government. So she joined the Illinois Policy Institute. “We have so many problems in Illinois that need to be addressed – I wanted to find an organization that was focusing more at the state level,” she said. “That’s what drew me to the Illinois Policy Institute.” When it comes to statewide issues, Tesarik has actually found some common ground with her friends. “They want the pension issue addressed,” she said. “They want charter schools. A lot of my friends say in Illinois they are more in line with the conservative point of view. In their minds, a number of my friends who vote Democrat said they would be willing to vote for a Republican if we had a good candidate. Someone willing to address the spending and take on unions. They realize spending is out of control.” Tesarik is uniquely positioned to understand just how dire Illinois’ situation is. She works in wealth management, overseeing the due diligence process for investment managers used in client portfolios. She works specifically with trusts and agency accounts, helping to set strategies based on the macroeconomic environment. The political landscape and how it affects investments is of particular interest to her. “In my industry you hear about Illinois bonds and the interest we’re paying,” Tesarik said. “We talk to our municipal

bond managers and they say, ‘We’re really careful about avoiding paper in certain states that are fiscally unsound.’ Oftentimes, that includes Illinois. It’s really concerning when you hear advisors saying they’re avoiding buying our debt.” Illinois’ pension crisis, its unpaid bills and failure to reform government spending are issues on Tesarik’s radar. And as an investment manager and strategic thinker in charge of other people’s money, she is well aware of Illinois’ shortcomings. “I would never onboard a solution that was run like Illinois,” she said. “It wouldn’t make it past the first due diligence meeting.” But Tesarik says she remains optimistic about Illinois’ future, which could take a drastic turn for the better in the matter of an election cycle. “We just have to elect someone with the backbone to do what’s right,” she said. “Doing what’s right is the hard thing to do. You can’t worry about being re-elected.” For now, Tesarik is grateful that she’s become well-versed on the issues and plans to remain active in Illinois Policy Institute events. During the past several years she’s also become more diligent about calling her local representatives to discuss policy initiatives, questions and concerns. “It’s great to be informed,” she said. “When people start talking about the issues I can give specifics and stats.”

24 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Greg Glassman —CrossFit CEO Preparing for the Known and Unknown
On March 12 the Illinois Policy Institute hosted Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of CrossFit. Glassman opened the first CrossFit gym in 1995 in California and launched crossfit.com in 2001 as an open-source program. By 2009, there were more than 1,000 CrossFit affiliates worldwide, as well as a national CrossFit Games event. At the Illinois Policy Institute event, Glassman shared his business’ impact and influence on the fitness community. He also spoke about how entrepreneurship and the free market create prosperity and growth. Members of the CrossFit community joined Illinois Policy Institute members for this exciting event, which drew almost 120 guests.

Watch: Glassman talks about what makes CrossFit different and shares his thoughts on entrepreneurship and the free market.

Photos: Mark Campbell Creative

Decatur Policy Breakfast
As part of the Illinois Policy Institute’s Speakers Bureau, the Illinois Policy Institute partnered with Richland Community College, the Greater Decatur Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County on March 26 for a panel discussion featuring Illinois Policy Institute staff. Senior Fellow Jonathan Ingram, Journalist in Residence Scott Reeder and Director of Education Reform Josh Dwyer sat on a panel moderated by Executive Vice President Kristina Rasmussen and discussed the political climate in Springfield and the policies necessary to turn the state around. Panel speakers talked about legislative developments in pensions and education, including school choice and charter schools. More than 40 local business leaders attended this hour-long panel. If you are interested in inviting a member of the Illinois Policy Institute to speak to your group, reach out to Chris Andriesen at 312-346-5700 or chris@illinoispolicy.org. illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 25

Becoming a member of the Illinois Policy Institute is an investment in freedom.
Your generous investment enables the Illinois Policy Institute to continue our mission to make Illinois No. 1 in economic growth. The best part of joining the Illinois Policy Institute is that our members are also our partners in the liberty movement.
Review our membership options and consider joining us through one of the following levels: Member $25 annual donation • Compass quarterly magazine • Personalized membership card Supporter $100 annual donation • Member-level benefits • Illinois Policy Institute Supporter mug Patriot $250 annual donation • Supporter-level benefits • Four complimentary tickets to Liberty Speakers Series events Sponsor $500 annual donation • Patriot-level benefits • Weekly insight emails from CEO John Tillman Patron $1,000 annual donation • Sponsor-level benefits • Complimentary admission to all Liberty Speaker Series events Benefactor $2,500 annual donation • Patron-level benefits • Complimentary admission to our annual event Friend of Liberty $5,000 annual donation • Benefactor-level benefits • Monthly intelligence conference calls with CEO John Tillman Freedom Leader $10,000 annual donation • Friend of Liberty-level benefits • Membership plaque Liberty Ambassador $25,000 annual donation • Freedom Leader-level benefits • Complimentary print copies of new studies and reports 1818 Club $50,000 annual donation • Liberty Ambassador-level benefits • Invitation to annual strategy session at premier location Leadership Council $100,000 annual donation • 1818 Club-level benefits • Personal tour of Illinois Statehouse with the Illinois Policy Institute’s outreach team President’s Council $500,000 annual donation • Leadership Council-level benefits • Invitations to private gatherings with scholars and policymakers Chairman’s Circle $1,000,000+ annual donation • President’s Council-level benefits • Policy center naming opportunity Young Professional (age 35 or younger) $100+ annual donation • Member-level benefits • Admission to four Liberty Speakers Series events You can also support the Illinois Policy Institute through your estate planning or by making a transfer of stock. Employer matches for tax-deductible gifts are another great avenue of support.

The Illinois Policy Institute is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions in any amount are welcome and tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

26 | SUMMER 2013 | illinoispolicy.org

Kristina Rasmussen gets things done. As the executive vice president of the Illinois Policy Institute, she takes the lead on transforming ideas, concepts and missions into policy results. Kristina cut her political teeth in Washington, D.C., earning a master’s degree in political management at George Washington University. While working on her degree, Kristina worked as an intern on Capitol Hill before joining the National Taxpayers Union. Since 2009 she has headed up the Illinois Policy Institute’s Springfield office, and has made a national name for herself; Kristina has made numerous appearances on Fox Business Channel, been published in the Chicago Tribune, quoted in The Wall Street Journal and is a force to be reckoned with in the Statehouse. Q: You’re from Minnesota and have extensive experience working in Washington, D.C. But you picked up and moved to the belly of the beast in Illinois. Why did you decide to make that move? A: Our CEO John Tillman told me that if you can fix Illinois you can fix anything. He said to me, “You think the federal government has problems? Wait until you get to Illinois.” This is a great challenge to be a part of. When I came on, the Illinois Policy Institute already had the Chicago office but we felt it was important to put a member of the leadership team in Springfield; the leading state policy group has to be where the policymakers are. This was a decision we made to put more emphasis on the policymaking process. Q: What have you learned about Illinois since you’ve been here? A: That my initial idea that this is a land of great potential and opportunity was correct; but that the problems here run very deep, and there is a disconnect between common sense and the decisions made at the Statehouse. I often think about what the debate down here would look like if there was no Illinois Policy Institute. Too often no one is representing the viewpoint of liberty, freedom, free markets and free people. I can’t imagine an Illinois without us.

Expert spotlight Kristina Rasmussen | Executive

Vice President

Q: How would you describe Illinois’ political culture? A: It is not always one based on principle or liberty. A candidate’s stump speech and ideals could be thrown overboard in an instant when they get to Springfield and go through the political power plays that dominate down here. The Illinois Policy Institute reminds people of their principles and that free market policy will provide the best results for all Illinoisans. Q: How would you describe an average day for you? A: It starts off at 6 a.m. when I roll over and start scrolling through my email – I’m so excited to see the latest developments. I recently worked many an extra hour to alert people to a very bad bill that popped up in committee banning new virtual charter schools for the next three years. One morning this week I was in committee. I live-tweeted the whole thing and influenced members. After that I shifted to coalition outreach. Later I did member outreach and a media appearance or two. I also worked on a policy paper on pension funding guarantees. My husband constantly reminds me what an amazing opportunity it is to know you’re fighting for something you believe in every day. Q: What motivates you and gives you hope for change? A: I do what I do because I have seen the triumph of the human spirit. When you unleash it, it can do amazing things. Every day I can help work to unleash this in Illinois is so gratifying and rewarding, and it keeps me going when there are setbacks in Springfield. All the trial and the struggle will be worth it in the end. Q: How do you measure success in what you do? A: When what was considered impossible is now received as common wisdom. When the term “Illinois’ pension crisis” used to be a heretical statement and now is accepted as common fact, I know we’re making a difference. illinoispolicy.org | SUMMER 2013 | 27

Justice Louis Brandeis popularized the saying that the states were the “laboratories of democracy.” From welfare reform in the 1990s to labor policy, education policy and budget policy today, states often blaze trails of public policy ingenuity and creativity. Unfortunately, Illinois is less a laboratory than it is a Petrie dish. Of course, the primary function of a Petrie dish is diagnostic – a tool for medical professionals to identify an ailment so that the proper cure can be administered. At the Illinois Policy Institute, we’re working to find and implement the innovative, market-based policy solutions that can cure our state and nation. What’s more, our marketing-centric approach effectively communicates these solutions to taxpayers. And our impact terrifies the agents of the status quo. But we can’t do it without you. Your tax-deductible membership supports our efforts and the cause of liberty and good governance. You can contact me at 312.346.5700 or jgreenberg@illinoispolicy.org to learn more. Please consider joining us!

Jonathan Greenberg, Vice President of External Relations

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