Saturday, January 14, 2006

Special Education

I'm out of town for a couple of days, but came across an online article in the Houston Chronicle dealing with bond ratings for a school funding bond issue. (Apparently as busy as I am, I still have too much time on my hands.) In any event, what caught my attention is the part that I put in italics below:
There is uncertainty as to the future of the school funding system in Texas. The State Supreme court recently ruled that certain aspects of the Texas public school finance system are unconstitutional. The governor is expected to call a special legislative session, the sixth special session in less than two years, to consider school finance. The effect of any legislative action on school funding is undeterminable at this time.
Edwin Eisendrath seems to be of the same mindset as far as addressing the school funding issue in Illinois is concerned:
Edwin Eisendrath spoke at a taping of W-B-B-M Radio's "At Issue" program today. And he says -- if elected -- he'd call a special legislative session to address school funding.Eisendrath says getting more money for schools will require tough choices and force a re-evaluation of the state's entire revenue system. He says he won't promise to not raise taxes, but he says such an action would be a last resort.
I really appreciate the diverse and intense opinions I get here when I post about the school funding issue, so let me try this spin. It strikes me that the GA is constantly dragging its feet when it comes to trying to take on the issue of a major overhaul of our education funding system.

Do you think that a special session would help by forcing legislative and public attention onto the issue? My thought is that it would be like an old-fashioned cage match, that is, nobody comes out until a result is reached. Could it be done in an election year? (My bet, not a chance) Could it be done at all? Will a fix ever be done any other way? How? Keep in mind that the issue has been kicked around for, oh, about 40 years now.

Have at it and have a good weekend.


At January 14, 2006 at 8:13 AM, Anonymous Texas Fritchey said...

The school funding fiasco in Texas has been going on for a lot longer than the two years cited in the article.
About 7 years ago, the courts decided that school funding was inequitable and mandated the legislature to change the way the schools were funded. Even then they were unable to come to an agreement on how it should be done. So, the court dictated how it was going to be done. The legislature finally woke up. I don't remember the exact sequence of events but in the end, Texas ended up with revenue sharing, i.e., rob the rich districts and give it to the poor districts. That is the current method of funding schools.
However, about 3 years ago, the courts again decided that revenue sharing wasn't a fair way of funding the poor (tax base restricted) districts and again declared the funding method illegal.Therein, came the special sessions cited in the article. Well, the other problem here is, a special session can only last for 60 days. Even though another can be called on day 61, that method was never used. Our brilliant legislaturers have used these sessions for a plethora of other items; mostly personal agendas for their pet projects and have not spent enough time on school fundings. The courts have stepped in again and given the state until May to come up with a new plan or they are once again going to dictate how the cow eats the cabbage. The outcome will be interesting. The governer is going to call another special session, probably after the primaries, that will run them right up against the court deadline. Should be interesting.
The issues are as follows: The goal of the legislature is to increase school funding, in an equitable manner, and reduce property taxes throughout the state. Texas has no income tax. For the legislature to initiate one would be politically disasterous. The solutions being proposed is to either increase the state sales tax, already at 8%, or increase taxes on businesses. I'm sure it's evident to all that businesses DO NOT pay taxes. Those costs are simply put into their pricing and subsequently paid by the consumer. So, if they do us the BIG favor of decreasing property taxes and increase either the sales tax or taxes on businesses, which I think would be detrimental to acquiring new businesses, it appears to me to be a wash.
That kind of makes it hard to understand what all the fuss is about. Since the end result is going to be an increase in taxes, just do it and get it over with. Unfortunately, for you Illini, the road being travel looks all too familiar.

At January 14, 2006 at 8:38 AM, Anonymous Cassandra said...

As someone who pays huge,five-digit property taxes, I would be fearful of a special session which might try to railroad something through (probably, an income tax increase)without giving taxpayers much time to comment.

For Cook suburbanites such as myself this would mean that our property taxes would continue to go up (I don't believe the state can control local property taxes
to a significant degree) plus I would be paying higher, perhaps substantially higher, income taxes.
And there is no certainty that my local (Oak Park) school system would get any more money from this.

In addition, there is no real evidence that more money improves student performance beyond a certain basic amount. As we all know, many schools with higher per pupil expenditure perform less well than schools with lower per pupil expenditures.

In addition, there is substantial evidence that school administrators and many, perhaps most teachers are overcompensated in relation to their performance.There is little true accountability in public education.
For example, teachers whose kids have bad test scores are compensated the same, or even more, than teachers whose students do well. The teachers' unions are strongly opposed to any teacher accountability.

Give the system more money without accountability and two or five years from now the same advocacy groups will be complaining about
the schools not having enough money, poor student performance, and so forth....

At January 14, 2006 at 9:35 AM, Anonymous Southern Illinois Democrat said...

Eisendrath is saying that he WILL raise my, your, our taxes. The hard working people of Illinois can't afford to pay anymore taxes.

I have put one child through college and have another one in college now, I need to keep my money that I earn so I can pay for my childs education.

Every time Eisendrath opens his mouth he talks about maybe having to raise my taxes. For us that have been around a few years we know when a politican says I may raise your taxes it really means I will raise your taxes.

Another reality that Eisendrath does not seem to get is that if it were so easy to raise taxes it would have been done. The people of this state are taxed to much already.

At January 15, 2006 at 1:06 AM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...


While I agree with your sentiments, I would argue that at least Eisendrath is being honest.

Rod will be forced to raise taxes dramatically next term, and Topinka will raise them even faster. Both are lying through their teeth if they say otherwise.

The only way to avoid a tax increase is to cut spending somewhere.

You know my view. The fat Education Budget is looks like a "rainy day fund" to me.

Tax Swaps? I'm all for a Real one (HB750 is a fake one). Zero out education taxes at the local level and fund each child equally from the State.


The "fiasco" is the insane level of funding. The USA spends more, and gets less, than any OECD nation, re: education.

If a District in Southern IL can educate a child for $5,000 a year, the idea that Rondout gets to spend over $20,000 is a joke beyond proportions. That's $15,000 a year wasted on pork & pension graft.

The Texas court may have given Conservatives a victory via the back door. A court imposed state income tax in Texas may just wake up the doped white mice.

Education is overfunded. Any school can educate a normal child for between $5-7,000/year.

Anything over that amount is an Enronesque conversion of public funds for private gain.

At January 15, 2006 at 10:47 AM, Anonymous Texas Fritchey said...

Wisdom, I don't have any arguments with your statements but the problems are a little deeper. The main problem in my mind is the number of students enrolled. That number has increased immensely in the last 15 years. My wife happens to teach in a district with 86,000 plus attendance. Their cost per student is only $5880. That hasn't varied a whole lot in 10 years. However, there are over 25,000 new students in the district in that time frame. That's an additional cost of $147 million. The total budget for just that district is $582 million. And that's just one medium sized district in the Houston area.
Not to bore you with the Texas situation but, one small problem is, under the current laws, the school districts cannot levy a tax any higher than $1.50 per thousand. Most of them have maxed out. The courts cannot 'impose' an income tax. There would have to be a change to the constitution and that requires the legislative approval and then a vote of the people to OK that change. What are the chances of that?? I'm sure the end result is going to be higher business taxes and, as stated earlier, that all comes out of the consumer's pocket.

At January 15, 2006 at 8:02 PM, Blogger steve schnorf said...

John, I appreciate your willingness to explore these issues publically.

I think some of your commenters are either not well informed or not being intellectually honest, because some of their comments are silly.

I don't believe most schools are overfunded, in some districts tax rates are very high because they are property-poor, so it takes high rates to raise any money.

I also pay 5 digit property taxes, and I understand that because I am so fortunate it is me and people like me who need to pay higher taxes to support schools. I'm afraid too many of my peers don't agree with me.

At January 15, 2006 at 10:09 PM, Blogger FightforJustice said...

Despite being under a state Supreme Court order, the Texas legislature has been unable to come up with a constitutional solution. The Supreme Courts of New Jersey and a score of other states have also declared their school funding unconstitutional, and a number of other legislatures continue to battle over a new policy.

In the absence of judicial compulsion in Illinois, why should anyone think thorough reform will be any easier here? In fact, it ought to be harder since legislators aren't under an order to do something.

At January 16, 2006 at 9:46 PM, Blogger Amy Allen said...

E. W.,
Most districts that spend $5000 per pupil,per year aren't educating anyone--nor, for the most part, is the CPS, which spends nearly 11k per student per year. Of course, there are social disparities at fault, too--which are often the biggest arbiters.


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