"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Students for an Equitable Education

A bright, hopeful group of students in Illinois are on the road with a message--change the way that public schools are funded primarily through property taxes. From the Sun-Times:

By Erin Calandriello STAFF WRITER
ELGIN -- It might not be Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C., but students from across Illinois on Tuesday served lawmakers with a message in Springfield -- reform education funding.

A small group of pupils from the Students for an Equitable Education, a new youth organization working to change Illinois' school funding system, joined the "Riding for Reform" bus tour. Pupils went to the state's capital to rally for change in education funding.

"We take our education very seriously, and so should Governor (Rod) Blagojevich and state lawmakers," said Marcus Smith, 18, a founding member of SEE. "When school starts again in the fall, I hope we don't have another year of crowded classrooms and crumbling school buildings."

To hear these pupils' cries, Blagojevich sat down with SEE to discuss alternative routes to cover the costs of public school education. SEE members said they would like to see the state look at increasing income taxes instead of relying heavily on property taxes.

If this were to happen, SEE members said school districts wouldn't be defined by the wealth of the communities they serve. Instead, they said, pupils across the state could receive a fair and equal public education.

The call for more money to balance out the rich and poor school districts is a common one. Illinois has a relatively low income tax, according to the Illinois State Board of Education. As a consequence, the state's share of funding kindergarten through 12th-grade public education is 37 percent, ranking it 48th in the nation. Illinois property taxes, on the other hand, are significantly greater than in other states.

In July 2006, U46 received about $8.2 million in property tax revenue, and in August, roughly $9.5 million, according to district officials. Those figures are about $2.2 million more than was received in July 2005 and about $7.6 million more than in August 2005.

Justin DeJong, a spokesman for the governor's office, said Blagojevich is open to new means to pay for public school education.

"School districts in Illinois have had a strong reliance on local property taxes for several decades, but through the past four years Governor Blagojevich has been committed to providing new state support for our school," said DeJong. "In his first term, Governor Blagojevich invested $1.8 billion into Illinois' schools, and he continues to push for more state money for education in the coming year in budget discussions currently taking place in Springfield."

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