I believe strongly in public schools. I backed up that belief by working to make the public schools in Evanston and Skokie succeed in offering our children a world class education and helping minorities reach parity with white students. My active engagement over 20 years included volunteering regularly in classrooms and clubs, joining and actively participating in parent/staff committees, PTAs and other multi-school advisory groups. This commitment culminated in running and winning two terms on the Evanston/Skokie District 65 school board, during which I was elected twice to serve as president.
Public schools are the bedrock of American democracy. Schools take our children from all walks of life, with any special need, from all income classes, from all ethnic and language backgrounds and teach them to read, think, analyze, create, and discover their own passions. Schools prepare our nation's residents to be productive citizens and contribute to our society, whether in work, play, or recreation, for the rest of their lives.
Educating our children is government's highest obligation. "Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free. There may be such other free education as the General Assembly provides by law. The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education." (Source: Illinois Constitution, emphasis added.)
This simple commitment of primary responsibility has been the subject of great debate since it was adopted in 1970. The debate is prompted by the failure of state government to adequately finance the state's public schools. While Illinois makes a significant contribution to local school districts through a variety of general and special purpose funds, the total paid by Springfield is less than one-quarter of total public school costs. Whatever "primary responsibility" might mean, it has not meant an enforceable obligation of the state to provide a majority of funds necessary to operate public schools throughout Illinois. Despite several law suits, Illinois' courts have never interpreted those words to mean that. According to Illinoisreportcard.com, a school funding research program at Northern Illinois University, Illinois' share of public school funding was 24 percent in 2016, the latest year for which data were available. The highest share of public school costs paid by the state over the last five years was 26 percent in 2012. Federal aid to education for local districts is stable at eight percent, according to Illinoisreportcard.com. The remaining two-thirds comes from local taxpayers.
To compensate for the state's chronic funding shortfall, local school districts rely on property taxes to pay for the desired level of education. The disproportionate share of funding coming from local property taxes has led to highly inequitable school resources and opportunities for children throughout Illinois. While property tax increases have been pursued vigorously throughout this legislative district, such as the recent referendum in Evanston/Skokie District 65, many districts in Illinois do not have the local tax base for property tax increases. As a result, their schools suffer, leading to stark disparities in educational achievement, which is associated with lower long-term earning potential for their children.
The complaints I hear about high taxes throughout the district, when examined more closely, really focus on the property tax, more than the state income tax, even at the higher rate enacted this summer. But they are inextricably linked. Stabilizing state revenue would offer needed relief from the extraordinary burden of property taxes. Illinois meeting its obligation to fund public schools is a much better alternative than an arbitrary property tax freeze, which I oppose.
My position on education is:
- I support the recent school funding reform formulas that benefit poorer communities, but ensure that no district receives less than they did last year.
- I oppose and would work to repeal the scholarship program to fund private schools. Public dollars should remain in the pubic school system.
- I will work to increase state revenues so the additional funding committed to in SB 1 will be available to help those much less fortunate school districts. Please see my revenue enhancement issue paper for a detailed look at the graduated income tax, financial services tax, sales tax expansion to cover certain services, sales tax on legalized and regulated marijuana sales to adults,
Through these taxes Illinois can meet its financial commitments to residents of Illinois and reduce the pressure to raise local taxes to meet the gaps left by an inadequate state tax system.
- Charter schools
I am running to be an advocate for children, parents, teachers, and our public schools, and I oppose charter schools. When I was first elected to the District 65 School Board, I led the fight against two charter proposals. In one case we incorporated the dual-language immersion program into the curriculum, and it is now a major curriculum option available in 5 schools in the district.
- Standardized Testing
Children learn in different ways and good teachers teach them accordingly. Standardized testing ignores this basic aspect of human nature. I oppose the current emphasis and reliance on standardized testing. Standardized testing should never be used as the basis for the compensation of classroom teachers. Teachers are the bedrock of a strong public education system, and they deserve the investment and support that acknowledges their critical role.
- Higher Education
We need to ensure that our state universities are fully funded and that the total cost of college education is affordable for Illinois' families. The budget impasse of the past two years had a devastating impact on our colleges and universities. I hear parents complain that a growing number of slots at our universities are being filled by students from outside the country who pay full tuition. While that is one way to fill a funding gap, it is not optimal for Illinois families. We need to ensure that there are places at all of our colleges and universities for Illinois students who want to attend. Students applying to those colleges and universities have to be confident that the college and university will continue to offer a high-quality education until they graduate. When funding is de-stabilized, students, parents and high school counselors look elsewhere. And that can have devastating consequences as our college age students then find jobs and partners outside Illinois and contribute to a population decrease and brain drain.