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Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 04:08 pm

A big disappointment

Study shows that Illinois is letting us down

Untitled Document The endlessly debated but yet-to-be-resolved crisis in state education funding came up again this week when on Tuesday state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Carbondale, and Lou Lang, D-Skokie,
proposed amending the state’s constitution to eliminate local property taxes as source of financing for Illinois schools.
The bill is unlikely to get very far, given that state lawmakers have been fighting for years over how to pay for schools, fund state pensions, and attract new jobs. According to The Illinois Report 2007, released this week by the University of Illinois-based Institute for Government and Public Affairs, the state could make strides toward remedying these issues by exercising better fiscal judgment. Considering its size and wealth, Illinois isn’t living up to its potential.  Specifically, the 55-page report looks at both K-12 and higher education, employment, energy and environmental issues, Medicaid, and immigration policy and how Illinois is doing compared with other Midwestern states. The report states, “Illinois’ pre-K-12 educational system can be viewed as both outstanding and tragic. Outstanding in that Illinois has some of the finest and well-resourced schools in the United States, but tragic because Illinois also has many schools that fail students, families, and communities.”
These failing schools and students, the study notes, are located in communities, such as Chicago, Decatur, Peoria, Rockford, and Springfield, with high concentrations of poverty, crime, and unemployment. With respect to funding among school districts, although Illinois has significant within-state differences, comparisons with five neighboring states show Illinois to be about in the middle of the group.
“For a relatively affluent state, Illinois compares poorly to its neighbors,” the report concludes. “Illinois has the capacity and potential to be a national innovator and leader. Yet as a state, we are not realizing this potential with performance.”
The Illinois Report 2007 makes few recommendations other than to note that “the state’s fiscal problems have
prevented investment” in its needs.
 

Contact R.L. Nave at rnave@illinoistimes.com.
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