For at least 25 years, we’ve been playing divide-and-conquer games over Illinois school funding, with our children as the dispensable collateral damage.
Twenty years ago, GOP Gov. Jim Edgar took up an idea to increase income taxes and decrease property taxes in an attempt to shift more school funding to the state. After all, our state constitution says the state has the “primary responsibility” for funding public education.
Edgar worked with Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan to get the controversial bill out of the House, but it died in the Senate because then-GOP Senate President James “Pate” Philip of suburban Wood Dale thought suburbanites would end up paying more for schooling Chicago and downstate children. Divide and conquer.
Edgar was asked what was in it for Philip. “Helping the 700,000 schoolchildren in this state who go to schools that don’t have the resources to provide a quality education,” he said back in 1997.
Now, we have Democrats holding on to a new school funding bill for two months and GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner rewriting it because he believes Chicago is getting a bailout. If Rauner and the Democrats don’t find a compromise soon, many school district officials say they will not be able to stay open this year.
All this comes on the heels of a two-year budget impasse during which our colleges and universities were starved of funding to the point of near death for several of them.
Time and again, Illinois children and young adults lose. The children and young adults who could be the future workers and taxpayers Illinois so desperately needs.