Last week we saw it in the news: Illinois ranks last in the nation when it comes to how much money the state kicks in for public education. Dead last. Again. It’s been that way for the last couple of years. Officials were quick to point out that it’s a ‘complicated formula’ making this determination, but once again, the state will only pay 89% of what it said it would pay to school districts and universities.
You want to know what years and years of gross mismanagement and corruption will get you? Look no farther than your schools. In our town they’re looking to cut teacher positions at the high schools and eliminate a period in the school day. The current budget shortfalls are unsustainable, but the consensus is our electorate is unlikely to pass a small property tax increase to fund the schools. Out in the rural areas, they’ve already passed these property tax increases (because it’s the only way to increase revenue at the local level), so everyone is paying more for schools that are often under-performing or cutting curriculum and activity choices.
Meanwhile the governor and state legislature still draw those fat pensions, while debating the expansion of gambling, pet lemon laws, the viability of another airport in Chicago, how big a tax cut to provide to big businesses threatening to leave the state, etc. They can take their time: no term limits = little pressure to achieve anything quickly.
Meanwhile classrooms are overcrowded. Art and Pre-K programs get cut. The University of Illinois charges more for in-state tuition than most neighboring state universities charge for out-of-state tuition. Speaker Madigan wants to throw teachers’ retirement funding on local districts (which will bankrupt them as surely as anything; but, hey, it won’t be his problem then).
2014 is an election year. If you’re an Illinois resident, learn about and remember some of this. Education.