Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Failure is Not an Option

Once again, another study is out grading states on the issue of school funding. Once again, Illinois comes up waaaay short.
A study recently conducted by Quality Counts 2006 published in Education Week magazine gives Illinois schools a C+ overall grade but only a D+ when it comes to school funding. The grade is down from the C“ Illinois was awarded last year. In the study, conducted by Editorial Projects in Education, it lists its reasoning for the lukewarm grade.

"Illinois falls short in resource equity, scoring in the lower tier of states. Its wealth-neutrality score is among the worst in the nation, indicating that per-pupil funding is considerably higher in its wealthier districts than in its poorer districts," the document reads.
Regardless of what you think the solution is, I would think that we could all agree that there is a problem. What is troubling to me is that many of the fine folks at ISBE still don't seem to even have a grasp on that basic fact:
Meta Minton, public information officer with the Illinois State Board of Education, said that unfortunately the disparity in property values across the state leads to this gap in funding.

"You're always going to have that," Minton said.
Duh. That's why we can't be so reliant on property taxes to fund our schools. As I have repeatedly stated, it is inequitable and immoral for the quality of a child's education to be predicated upon the value of the dirt in the town in which he or she resides.

I can, and have, extensively discussed this issue here and in other forums. I appreciate that there are several passionate and competing thoughts on what needs to be done. Recent discussions about school district consolidations are one valid piece of that puzzle and I hope that we address that issue in the very near future. And without even getting into the amounts of funding, I still maintain that we need to address the manner in which we fund schools. Soon.

17 Comments:

At January 10, 2006 at 11:42 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said...

How do you teach kids without books? How do you teach kids with chairs that are broken? I don't know

I'm not happy about it, but my kids won't read a book, but they'll read anything on a computer screen.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 12:04 PM, Anonymous Big Joe D'Antony said...

I have a secret plan to fix our schools but I won't tell anyone until I get elected to the general assembly

 
At January 10, 2006 at 12:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep. Fritchey,

The property tax is not the problem. Its distribution is.

Take all of the property tax generated for education and distribute it state-wide.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 1:17 PM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

Bill,

My son read books and computer screens. The problem with the schools is that they won't teach kids to read either of them.

"Balanced Illiteracy" and "Concocted Math" are proven ineffective curricula, and when John starts legislating quality curricula in the class room, I'll take his carping about funding more seriously.

Big Joe,

Unfortunately, that is a better platform than any one else's out there. You have my vote.

Anon 12:26

Great idea. That would strip away the corrupt pretense that the tax for schools is local.

It would also cause a mass revolt in rich suburban bonehead land, where the doped white mice actually believe their absurd taxes are buying them a quality education.

___

John,

A nice try, but you want your cake and to eat it too. You know as well as I do that any HB750 style swap will not yield a dime of property tax relief. It will only serve to slow the rate of growth for a year or so, while the big state tax hike will fund huge pension debts - not education.

This is intentional (and therefore intellectually dishonest) on the part of HB750 promoters.

If you are going to advocate a swap, make it a REAL swap with PERMANENT cuts in property taxes.

I'll once again remind you that you can't serve "the children" and the Teacher's Unions at the same time. Big Education isn't interested in children, it's interested in Big Education.

Whose side are you on?

 
At January 10, 2006 at 1:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, the current system we have is sickening and condemns many poor families to generations of poverty as poorer families get the worse education while richer ones have it better.

I say trash the property tax system, swap for income tax (it would be nice if we could have a progressive income tax) or increased pollution taxes (instead of pollution regulations) and give each school $6-7,000 per pupil.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 2:06 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I would suggest reading a paper that Mike Van Winkle did called, "In Defense of Property Taxes" last year.

Among what we found is:

1. In 1997, Harvard Economist Caroline Hoxby found that students in school systems with greater local control and local funding were more likely to get a bachelors degree by age 24 and have a higher average wage. Moreover, fewer students attend private schools in metropolitan areas were schools are funded locally, which might be an indication of educational satisfaction. All this led Hoxby to conclude that “the evidence is clear and convincing: Students and taxpayers alike are better off under locally based systems of school funding and school control.”

2. We found that when you compared states with local funding (property taxes) with states predominantly funded by the state, that the locally funded school districts performed better on the NAEP.

3. Finally, as part of this research (I'm not sure it made it into this paper), that it is virtually impossible to equalize school funding unless and until government is willing to dictate where people live -- ie. deny them fundamental rights. That's because people tend to self segregate into neighborhoods with similar lifestyles, economic well being, and interest in education, etc.

This has led me to the conclusion that equity in education funding arguments is utopian at best and a red herring at least. We waste too much time on it and our efforts would be better served on finding other solutions -- such as a variety of school choice solutions including tax credits, charter schools, vouchers, home schooling and other means of improving education outcomes.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

John, does the study include pension accounting? Is there any other state that lets some, but not all, local districts pass pension costs onto the state? Even before you get to the property tax question it seems like someone needs to start talking about that.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 9:26 PM, Anonymous Cap'n Crud said...

John: Amen, amen, to the sentiments you express. Plenty of pious politicians promise better things for our schoolchildren. They simultaneously rule out even the consideration of several options (including, but not limited to, any possibility of increasing the income tax).

Everything -- but everything -- ought to be on the table to start this kinda discussion. If you promise better days, you should be willing to look from horizon to wide horizon for ways to deliver.

 
At January 10, 2006 at 9:33 PM, Blogger Amy Allen said...

Greg,
So, students in the CPS(where per-pupil expenses are almost $11,000) or in other less-than-successful districts are failing because their parents aren't interested in education? A poorly educated student isn't going to become an interested parent. Better than societal eugenics would be employment for the parents and a safe and effective school environment for the students.

 
At January 11, 2006 at 12:12 AM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

Greg,

I did read Mike's paper, and I'm a big fan of Il.Pol.Inst.

Mike has offered a reasonable critique of my idea of a permanent swap, and I will incorporate some of his arguments in my update to my "plan."

With out going into too much detail, here are some general points.

1. I don't know where Hoxby found "greater local control," but it wasn't in Illinois. Here, the district is a mere appendage of the greater state bureaucracy, and most Superintendents tell their acolytes on the "board" that 85-90% of spending is "mandated."

Some of this a smoke screen to keep boards in line, but it is mostly true. Local control in IL is mostly a myth.

2. I understand what you mean about "equalization" being a myth of sorts, but that doesn't mean that the state can't end the "local/state" charade, and fund Children (not districts or systems)

If IL abolishes the STATE AUTHORIZED education tax, hikes State taxes, and funds each child, there will be numerous suburbs that attempt to reimpose a property tax. Let them, as long as that money is funneled through parents first, and not the local bureaucracy. (which will be abolished)

3. As I pointed out above, the theory of the Superiority of Property taxes breaks down because there is no real local control.

But wait, there's more. Another theory is that by taxing incomes, you have a direct negative effect on incentives. I buy that argument, from an incentive, AND operational standpoint. By drawing money out of personal control, you damage the economy. Theoretically, property taxes do less damage.

HOWEVER, look at the operational effect of property taxes (particularly as they have exploded through district PTELL schemes).

Well over 80-90% of mortgages escrow taxes. This has virtually the same operational effect as witholding income taxes from your paycheck.

For most Illinois citizens, a 66% property tax cut offers an immediate benefit to their bottom line that is probably more impactful than the income tax increase from my proposed REAL (not FAKE) swap.

I learned a few things from my early days at Heartland. One was that the tax MIX was less important than the TOTAL TAX TAKE.

My proposal creates the ability to;

1. Cut property taxes
2. Increase Revenues to the State (which will need them to pay profligate - but protected - pension largess)
3. Fund Children Equally
4. Increase Local Control (every school becomes an independent Charter)
5. Create school choice (anti-choice is intellectually indefensible)
6. Slices, dices, cuts prices - all at the expense of the most useless governmental entity ever invented - the School District.

 
At January 11, 2006 at 11:22 AM, Blogger Greg said...

Any, I agree with you, wholeheartedly. I don't know where the "social eugenics" comes into play, however. I've never heard of the term. Parental involvement is the highest correlate with achievement -- it's not the only correlate, it's just the best chance a child has to succeed in school. In areas where people don't value education as much you have to focus on those other areas. Equity in funding, however, isn't one of those areas.

Bruno, I don't have a problem with the idea that money follows the student, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be funneled through the state.

I'm not sure what you mean about local control. I know there is plenty of interference, but I'm not sure that equates with a loss of control. For example, if a district or a state doesn't like NCLB, then don't take the money and you won't be bound by it.

 
At January 11, 2006 at 1:18 PM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

Greg,

In my conversations, research, and analysis of the Education Industry, I've looked at every iteration/avenue one could look at to drastically and/or incrementally "reform" the system.

At every turn, district and governance combine to create a system that is impervious to reform.

Let's just take our area of agreement (funding children, not systems)

If it isn't funneled through the state, there where is it funneled through?

I submit that the state/local axis is a structure intentionally designed to stymie any such effort. They play a shell game where anytime you attempt to assign, divide, or even assess responsibility, one entity sloughs it off on the other. (and both say they need more money)

The Constitution gives the state, not the local, government the power and the responsibility for education. Let's put it all there, and demand a system that works.

Your use of the word "funnel" is instructive. With ONE entity to watch, (the State) policy makers, legislators can discern (and be held responsible for) their policy choices.

The funneling of dollars, responsibility, and power through 886 irresponsible and corrupt districts is far more wasteful than funneling it through one entity.

Further, a direct transfer from the state to the parent put all the responsibility where it belongs and is deserved - the family.

There is no intellectually sound argument against school choice.

 
At January 11, 2006 at 3:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rep. Fritchey,

Totally off topic question/suggestion for the blog:

What are the big issues that will be raised in session? Not necessarily resulting in new laws, but at least leading to a strong debate.

Interested to see your views/predictions.

 
At January 13, 2006 at 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AmyE, do your per-pupil expenses include pension costs? Look into it, because many schools in the state have a sweetheart deal -- the state pays the pension costs, no matter how lucrative (remember $300K superintendent retirement packages), and that's not always included in the per-student cost -- the TRUE cost to the taxpayers. In essence, those school districts force the rest of us to pay their teachers' retirement out of our taxes. While still struggling to bring our schools up to par.

Look into it.

 
At January 15, 2006 at 8:09 PM, Blogger steve schnorf said...

Many of these comments seem a ruse for enacting school vouchers.

 
At January 15, 2006 at 10:18 PM, Blogger FightforJustice said...

The quality of a child's park district is dependent upon where she lives. Ditto for library services, public safety services, and so on. Is that all immoral too?

Will candidate Rod talk about this issue before Nov. 7? If he won't renew the no-new-taxes pledge, will he lead the drive for HB 750 in '07? If so, shouldn't he tell voters his intention before the election?

 
At January 16, 2006 at 9:52 PM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

Steve,

No Ruse. Consider my comments a completely open attack on the most corrupt enterprise in the Nation today, as well as an unabashed attempt to enact the only reform capable of reversing the rot.

If your goal is an educated populace, there is no intellectually sound argument against scholarships/vouchers.

Simply put... Fund Children, not Systems.

I'd be happy to take this up with You, John, or anybody else in any open venue.

Once exposed to the facts and common sense, even the Rich Suburban Soccer Mom comes around.

Of Course, if you are a member of the interlocking web of entities (BIG EDUCATION) that has taken in more money (in real terms) and provided less quality for that money for over 70+ years, you'd have a strong interest in holding on the political clout you've amassed during that period.

 

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