(Springfield) … In his budget address to Illinois
legislators today, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich acknowledged that the state’s system
for funding public education places far too much of the burden on local property
taxpayers. Yet the governor failed to provide a solution to the problem,
according to the A+ Illinois campaign for education funding and property tax
while the governor echoed his campaign pledge that education is his top priority
and noted that “the right priorities have to take into account today and
tomorrow,” he set forth an education funding proposal that not only fails to
adequately fund Illinois schools today, but also earmarks an unstable and
unpredictable source of revenue for public education in years to come.
The governor proposed the creation of an “education endowment fund” drawn
from surpluses of other dedicated funds. In addition to being a funding source
that takes from other important programs, “robbing from Peter to pay Paul,”
this system presupposes that these dedicated funds will continue to run surpluses
in coming years. It is unfair – and unhealthy for the future vitality
Illinois – to hedge bets
will bear the costs.
governor’s proposed “education endowment fund” would generate a paltry $140
million for education, the lowest amount earmarked for education spending during
Gov. Blagojevich’s term and nowhere near what is needed to meet the governor’s
own pledge to raise the state’s per-pupil education spending amount, also known
as the foundation level, by $1,000 over the course of his term.
of most concern is that, if state legislators fail to approve this proposal, the
governor provided no other plans for increasing funding for education in 2006.
the state lags far behind in providing the funding needed to ensure every child
quality education. Currently, schools receive nearly $1,000 less per pupil than
the minimum amount recommended by the Education Funding Advisory Board in 2002.
Due to be updated this year, that foundation level amount is expected to
increase as a result of inflation and the added costs to schools of meeting No
Child Left Behind mandates. This increase will only widen the gap in what
schools need to operate and what they receive from the state.
Meanwhile, under the Blagojevich administration, Illinois’ schoolchildren
already have been hurt by the state’s failure to adequately fund its public
school system. While elementary class sizes grew by 5 percent between FY03 and
FY04, the state employed 3,400 fewer teachers and made no investment last year
in updating and improving school facilities.
A+ Illinois commends the governor
for recognizing that the state has a structural deficit, as well as for
restoring capital funding for new school projects and repairs.
However, the state continues to
fail its students and families – and jeopardize its own future economic well-being
– by providing far less than what is needed to guarantee that every child
Illinois receives an adequate education.
Efforts to build efficiencies in state government are
Yet, the governor's
pension reform proposals do not provide any of the necessary, immediate revenue
needed to adequately fund education and maintain other important programs for
children and families. Instead, they are a "costly form of procrastination" that
take long-term savings over the course of 40 years that yield insufficient
revenue to fix our school funding system.
The fairest, most efficient way to support schools is to raise revenues
through income and sales tax that are based on a person's ability to pay, rather
than rely on accounting changes that will further put the state and schools in
fiscal jeopardy in a few years."
Last year, the governor
suggested that he would address the state’s broken school-funding system after
he developed greater accountability over the Illinois State Board of
Education. This year, he said that education funding reform must wait until after he
fixes the state’s pension system.
Illinois’ two million schoolchildren cannot
wait another year and should not be held hostage to making school funding reform
contingent on other factors.
is more important to the future well-being of the state’s two million
schoolchildren or its economic vitality than fixing
school-funding system now.