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Current Opinions: 04/16/14 (Click HERE for Archived Opinions):
  • Letters to the Editor 1
  • Letters to the Editor 2

  • Letters to the Editor 1

    Dear Editor,

    Every child should have an excellent school. That's why I wholeheartedly support Governor Quinn's courageous plan to invest in education like never before. My colleagues on the Illinois State Board of Education and I have long fought to increase funding for our pre-K through 12 students, because a strong education system is critical to ensuring our state competes in the 21st century. Governor Quinn is proposing an increase of $291 million in the classroom for FY15 - a significant improvement that will move us in the right direction. His budget will allow schools to begin making up the lost ground that resulted from decades of mismanagement that the Governor inherited. But even more importantly, the Governor's ambitious blueprint will invest more than $6 billion in the classroom over the next five years - the largest investment in the classroom in Illinois history. This investment could be a game-changer for the Illinois economy. A state's most valuable resource is its people. We need to support Illinois teachers so that they can prepare our students to be college and career ready once they graduate. If we do that, businesses will want to stay and relocate here. Just last month State Board of Education staff was asked to provide the legislature with information about what an additional $1 billion reduction to schools would mean since that is the level of funding they anticipate would be available without the extension of the current income tax level. That kind of cut could translate into the reduction of more than 13,000 teachers, it could mean more than 80,000 students who now take a bus would be forced to find another way to school, and it would mean more than doubling the number of school districts that are on our financial watch list. We also reached out to districts and asked them what a reduction of this magnitude would mean. All of the districts we spoke with predicted reductions or elimination of extracurricular activities and academic course offerings, laying off personnel and increasing class sizes. I believe if we do not maintain the current tax rate, it is not a pretty picture for our schools. We need to stand up and say, enough of the cuts. We cannot expect excellent schools while starving education. Our children and state deserve better.

    Gery Chico, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education

    Letters to the Editor 2

    Dear Editor,

    I appreciated your editorial in the April 9 issue of The Sun. It drew attention to the issues creating the "crisis" without supporting specific solutions. You ask us to "set aside self-interest and be part of the best solutions we can find together." Okay, I'll try to put forth some proposals--but not the usual sort of increase tax rates or adopt new tax measures. Every level of government--federal, state, county, local, school districts--is constantly trying to squeeze another coin from the taxpayer's pocket. Efforts are afoot to make permanent the "short-term" 5% rate in state income tax. Despite what many people feel, it is the Illinois Department of Revenue (in its position of overseer of property tax administration) that is behind the constant push to redefine settled procedures that push property valuations (and consquently tax collections and rates) higher and higher. Locally, Trenton voters approved of a city sales tax. Tax, tax, tax,and more tax. Your article points out that the Wesclin district was able to squirrel away an average of $70,000 per year in property tax levy for a total working cash fund balance of $1.2 million over 20 years. That's unbelievable. Once the district gets the levy it never wants to let go. So it kept twenty years worth of $70K per. And what is wrong with "self-interest"? If it is in the self-interest of the students to have extracurricular activities such as athletics, choral, music, band and drama programs, let the parents pay for it. Isn't that what religious schools do? And consider letting class sizes increase. When I attended college most of my classes had 40 to 50 students per class. School districts are responsible for expenditures of hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide transportation not only for school but all the travel related extracurricular activities. Perhaps parents should pay for these enrichments. Why should folks with no children or children that are home-schooled or that go to religious schools pay for what they don't get any advantage? I offer the idea that schools be responsible for providing an excellent education but not all the miscellaneous stuff to which we have become addicted. A truly dedicated and ingenious school administration and staff should feel challenged to offer up programs and prudent shrinking of costs to match its revenue projections. Sometimes you just can't keep spending. Sometimes you reduce expenses or charge more for the extras. As you so succinctly said, "It's time to stop fiddling. Rome is burning."

    Alan Rigdon, Trenton

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