CHICAGO (CBS) — Students, teachers and parents staged a big rally for so-called “school choice” at the Thompson Center today, trying to make sure their voices are heard in the debate over school funding.

WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports busloads of people young and old – from private schools, charter schools, and parochial schools – rallied and cheered as 17-year-old student Trey Cobb, with Ed Choice Illinois, outlined the case for state funding to help parents send their kids somewhere other than failing public schools.

“If we have school choice now, then every parent will be able to make the decision that is best for their individual child. If we have school choice now, then schools won’t become pipelines to prison anymore,” he said.

St. Rita High School junior David Gilliard stood with his mother to praise her choice to send him to Catholic school.

“At times, it could get a bit rough for her with tuition and everything, and paying for school and books, but she continues to seek out assistance from different programs, such as Catholic Charities,” he said.

Rebecca Nieves-Huffman, state director of Democrats For Education Reform, joined the cause to provide public funds for students to attend any school they choose, public or private.

“Our kids can’t wait for the school system – whatever that might be, whether it’s public, private, or charter – to get better. Our kids need access to good schools right now,” she said.

She said low-income minority students deserve the same quality of schools that others have.

However, opponents have said the public school system can’t afford to siphon more money away from neighborhood schools that need it most.