Monday, March 3, 2008

An idea on school funding in Illinois

You know the latest aldermanic newsletter made a statement about reforming public school financing to get them out of our property taxes. Let me share another solution. It sounds reasonable to me, but of course this is one of many.
A Democrat Governor proposes tax cuts, however fleeting, and Republican legislative leaders respond by asking, "How's he going to pay for them?"

These are confusing times to be a Republican in Illinois. When they are not letting the Democrats in charge off the hook for managing massive public systems into DEFCON 1 core meltdowns or for creating open-ended entitlement programs, they are rejecting tax cuts.

Nevertheless and in spite of themselves, Republicans will be presented this year with yet another opportunity to reconfigure the political balance of power in Illinois and reestablish their electoral relevance.

Against the backdrop of Governor Blagojevich's trivial, half-hearted "State of the State Address," House Speaker Michael Madigan allowed House Bill 750 to begin slithering its way though the General Assembly once again.

HB 750 is the legislative Rasputin of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, which proposes to permanently increase the state income tax by 66% in exchange for temporary property tax relief.

Where would the net increase in state revenue go? Say it with me: to fund education.

And herein lies the Republican opportunity.

Rather than getting caught in the false debate about how much money for schools is enough, Republicans should tell Democrats to name their price. Increase the foundation level by 5%? 10%? 50%? Fine. Whatever.

But Republicans must hold fast to one stipulation in return for their blank check on funding.

For the City of Chicago, those dollars will no longer be attached to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). Those dollars will be attached to the individual CPS students so that their parents may send them to the school of their choosing, public or private, within the city.

This is something that Republicans as well as common-sense Independents and Democrats from Zion to Cairo can get behind because everybody gets it when it comes to the importance of their children's education.

Illinois families understand that today more than ever education is the gateway to opportunity.

Illinois families are aware of the increasing earning gap between college grads and non-college grads in our global, digital economy.

Illinois families have come to learn what a lot of Chicago families know from experience, which is the troubling reality that only 6 out of every 100 freshmen who entered a Chicago public high school this past September will earn a bachelor's degree (source: Consortium on Chicago School Research). 6 in 100.

Illinois families also intuitively comprehend that no matter where you live, when a system responsible for educating 400,000 children every year fails the overwhelming majority of those children every year, as CPS does, we all pay.
I'll get back to the aldermanic newsletter later. There's something else I want to share!

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