Illinois Policy Institute spotlights “Gifts of the Free Market” at its Wednesday, December 7th holiday event

December 13, 2011

The Illinois Policy Institute, John Tillman, President, hosted its “Gifts of the Free Market” annual holiday event on Wednesday, December 7th.

The occasion featured cocktails, appetizers, and some some good old-fashioned holiday cheer.  There was also a brief program which focused on how free markets are the best way to help the poor and disadvantaged and society in general

Riding the elevator to the 40 floor to reach the venue for the Illinois Policy Institute’s holiday party at the

Chicago headquarters of the Illinois Policy Institute, 190 S. LaSalle Street, members and guests were greeted by the sound of youthful voices singing holiday music.  The young singers hailed from Bucktown campus, one of charter schools associated with the Chicago International Charter School started in 1997. 

I was fortunate to be able to meet and speak with Meghan M. Schmidt, Director of Special Projects at Chicago International Charter School, who without hesitation was eager to answer my questions and offered the following information:

“Chicago International Charter School (CICS) is the largest charter school operating in Illinois and is a front runner in thought leadership in the school reform movement.  CICS now operates a network of 16 campuses across the city of Chicago and Rockford, IL serving more that 9,200 students in K through 12th grade.

CICS believes that all young people can achieve, when given the right support.  This philosophy has led to significant academic progress and the expectation that every of of the students will graduate high school with the capacity to succeed in a competitive four-year college.  The organization works continuously to provide the tools and support necessary to achieve this goal.  CICS’s mission is to provide, thorough innovation and choice, an attractive and rigorous college-preparatory education that meets the needs of today’s students. 

Charter schools are privately managed public schools.  CICS is therefor publicly funded, tuition-free and open to all city children regardless of income or academic ability.  It’s student body is demographically similar to Chicago’s other public schools; 86% are low income, 96% are minority, and many are second-language learners and /or have disabilities.”

As one trained in music education having myself directed choruses during my teaching career, I informed Meghan Schmidt how impressed I was with the Bucktown campus charter school chorus under the direction of Evan Bruno.  Meghan informed me that the 35 young people who made up the choir were from grades 2nd through 6th,  All had signed up to participate as a volunteer after-school activity.

And sing they did with enthusiasm and gusto under the excellent leadership of their chorus director, Evan Bruno, who impressed me not only with his ability as a music teacher to draw out of the diverse group of students pleasing-to-listen-to holiday and Christmas songs, but also with his unique ability to keep the youngsters under control with firmness accomplished in a somewhat humorous way. 

Evan Bruno is one of six in-school conductors associated with the Chicago Children’s Choir.  Bucktown charter school qualified to become part of the In-School Program of Chicago’s Schools this past fall.  In so doing Bucktown was provided with a qualified conductor to establish a chorus.  More than 2,000 children in 40 schools are the beneficiaries of the Chicago Children’s choir in-school program.     

About an hour into the holiday event a request was made for all to be seated so the program could begin.

Collin Hitt was the initial speaker as Senior Director of Government Affairs and an education specialist at the Illinois Policy Institute.  His work at the Illinois Policy Institute focuses on better educational options for Illinois Children, such as school choice, education funding, and education reform.   Collin Hitt is also a proponent of charter schools and praised Gov. Quinn’s signing of the Charter School Quality Act in his published IPI report of 7/10/2011 titled, New Charter Reforms Empower Communities, as “an important moment in the history of education reform” in our state.”

It was fitting for Collin Hitt’s remarks to emphasize with pride the Bucktown Campus charter school choir, having been the initiator in inviting Bucktown choir to entertain Illinois Policy Institute members and friends with music of the season.  Collin Hitt has also worked with CICS on state legislation and has contributed to its journal, Focal Point 

Collin cited the Bucktown Campus as a good example of school choice in action, reminding all that the Illinois Policy Institute has fought hard for school choice and vouchers.  Regarding Bucktown charter school, “Parents now have a good, safe place to send their kids to school.” 

Collin looks forward to the day when there will be school choice for all children in Illinois.

Kristin Rasmussen, Executive Vice President of the Illinois Policy Institute, was next in line at the podium.  Kristin Rasmussen, like Collin Hitt, is based in the Springfield office of the Illinois Policy Institute at 802 South 2nd Street. Her role is to direct the Institute’s operation, legislative outreach and policy research. Kristin advises legislators in Springfield on liberty-based public policy solutions and travels the state to advance the liberty-based principles of the Illinois Policy Institute.

After brief remarks, Ms. Rasmussen introduced Vicki Tesmer, a local Chicago artist who volunteered at UCAN Academy teaching art to students in conjunction with UCAN’s Director of Spiritual Formation, The Reverend Tyrone Fowlkes.  The vision of UCAN is that youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders. 

Ms. Tesmer worked with UCAN’S youth, aged seven to fourteen, to turn art based on holiday scenes into UCAN holiday cards.  Four art designs were picked from the many fabulous art works produced by Tesmer’s students.  The boxed cards of 20 were on sale at the IPI holiday event for $20.00.  Proceeds from card sales are slated for the Capital City Fund. 

After a short film showing Vicki Tesmer’s work with UCAN youth, Tesmer noted how artists benefit when the free market system is working.  According to Ms. Tesmer, “When the business world does well, so does the art world.  When the business world does poorly, artists stop finding work .”  Why is this so?  The flourishing of the private sector through free market principles creates work for artists.

Tesmer admitted that when in college she would put down so-called yuppies, only to be told by a professor that she better be careful how she thought about yuppies because they will be the ones who will keep her in business later on (Yuppie short for “young urban professional” or “young upwardly mobile professional” is a term that refers to a member of the supper middle class or upper class in their 20s or 30s.  Yuppie first came into use in the early-1980s, and also its use has faded, it is still being used in the 2000s and 2010s.).

In conclusion, Vicki Tesmer revealed that the best time for artists and for galleries was during the time of Ronald Reagan.  Following the advise of her father, Ms. Tesmer found something she liked to do and then went for it.

The final speaker of the evening was John Tillman, president of the Illinois Policy Institute. Tillman spoke of the Free Market System as when all harmonize to create something of value that others desire.

Since the date of the IPI event coincided with the remembrance of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the connection was made to the blood that was shed so that liberty could be preserved.

In speaking about the sentencing of Governor Blagojevich, John Tillman suggested that those present consider giving $14.00 in the month of  December as a donation to the Illinois Policy Institute.  This would amount to one dollar for every year Blago was being incarcerated, and, if so disposed, a zero or two could be added to our $14.00 contribution.

Tillman stressed how the financial legacy of Blago is alive and well.  Illinoisans will for years be paying for the excessive financial burdens placed upon future generation, including irresponsible expansions in health and prescription benefits, headline-grabbing lawsuits, highway signs sporting his name . . and on and on goes the list!  

Released by John Tillman on the day after the IPI holiday event (December 8) was a COMPASS on-line report that details the policies Gov. Blagojevich advanced for his political gain and their costs to taxpayers.  Even though all of Blago’s polices passed through the legislature, Blago was still the leader and architect of all.

Stated by Tillman was that we must take responsibility upon ourselves for changing the narrative. The culture of corruption can no longer be tolerated here in Illinois.

David From was asked to stand to be recognized by John Tillman as the new Illinois director of American For Prosperity, a national grassroots advocacy group on par with the Illinois Policy Institute here in Illinois.  AFP is committed to educating Americans about economic policy and returning the federal government to its constitutional  limits.

A surprise announcement followed when Tillman informed Institute members and guests that all would be the recipients of the gifting of a book made possible by a generous donor to the Illinois Policy Institute, Democracy Denied:  How Obama Is Ignoring You And Bypassing Congress to Radically Transform America — And How To Stop Him.  Mark Levin, said of the book written by Phil Kerpen, Vice President For Policy At Americans For Prosperity, “This is a must-read for everyone who values our nation’s bedrock principles.” 

John Tillman then displayed another book, one of the 44 world-famous books for children written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss for children and their lucky parents — Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.”

Upon inquiring whether anyone had ever heard of Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, there was a resounding “no” response, although another Dr. Seuss book, Scramble eggs super!, was recognized by almost all. 

As to why Thudwick the Big-Hearted Moose lacked the recognition that it deserved, Tillman suggested that it was because the book was all about the free market system.  Copies of Thudwick the Big-Hearted Moose books were made available free of charge upon request. 

I read my copy of Thudwick on my way home on the commuter train from Chicago to Lake Bluff.  I found it to be a charming book with its marvelous message of how depending on others to provide for you in the end does one no good.

In closing John Tillman wished all a Merry Christmas which he knew wasn’t politically correct.  Tillman also related how this past year had been a good year for the Illinois Policy Institute in the area of finances.  Funds raised were just north of $3 million.

With the end of the program, many stayed on to continue enjoying more of the offered good old-fashioned holiday cheer.










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