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PENSIONS OVER CHILDREN
Well, the schoolteachers got their way. For 25 years Illinois communities have been faced with school tax-increase referenda after school tax-increase referenda. Nearly two-thirds of our property taxes go to the schools and that school spending, mainly salaries, is the reason hundreds of thousands of homeowners appeal their assessments to their respective assessors.
What is the major reason given by the teachers and their unions for seeking these tax-increase referenda? They pontificate about the need to educate our children, that the children are our future, and that without good schools our home values will plummet and the earth will fall into the sun.
They complain about school-funding inequities between poor and wealthy districts and that the fault isn’t theirs, but the state’s unwillingness to pay for its proper share of education. They even tell us that they are driving in a bus to Springfield to complain to the legislators.
Those are good reasons to vote for a tax-increase referendum, and they are the reasons that the school tax increases always get endorsed by the local newspapers and that they are always passed. Children, after all, even to us tax Chicken Littles, are the future.
One of the major goals of a constitutional convention would have been education funding language with teeth that would have required the state to provide its share. Right now, Illinois ranks 49th among all the states in public funding of education. As a result, only 28 percent of the school bills get paid by the state. That means 72 percent is picked up by the property taxpayers, and that’s the number one reason our property taxes are so high. That’s the “state’s unwillingness to pay for its proper share of education” that the schoolteachers complain about when it’s time to float a tax-increase referendum.
The schoolteachers and retired schoolteachers that I spoke to, however, all voted against the constitutional convention. You would have thought they would have voted 100 percent to provide more state funding. In fact, one of the major spokesmen in the state to lobby for a “no” vote was one of our former school board members who led a group on a bus to Springfield.
Why did they vote “no”? They feared their pensions would be damaged.
More than that, the teachers’ unions notified all the teachers statewide about this. The unions told all the
teachers and retired teachers to vote “no.”
What about the children? What about the need to educate the children? What about the future? What about those plummeting home values destroying our communities?
It seems that all the hyperbole about the “state’s unwillingness to pay for its proper share of education” isn’t very important, the children aren’t that important, nothing is important, when it comes to ensuring the sanctity of the pensions.
The bottom line is that the teachers and retired teachers voted for their
pensions, not for the students, and their union told them to do it.
Leslie M. Golden, Ph.D
Golden was director of media relations for YES for Illinois, a group urging a “yes” vote on the constitutional convention.
PRICE OF CON-CON DEFEAT
Hopes for long-overdue reforms in Illinois property taxation, school funding, and stronger political ethics laws were dashed with the Nov. 4 defeat of the Illinois constitutional convention referendum.
Prejudicial wording on the ballot measure confused voters, and opponents sowed the seeds of fear that killed the initiative — one that comes before voters once every 20 years.
Dusty politicians, union and political lobbyists suggested that the best way to institute needed reforms was to wait on our legislators or elect new legislators to grapple with these issues. Only two legislators were retired this election. We should trust that these legislators will not be influenced by special interests or be subject to the leadership, as the architects of perpetual gridlock.
Three prominent thinkers endorsed a yes vote on calling a citizens convention. One was Paul Vallas, former CEO of the Chicago public schools and nationally recognized for raising test scores and balancing budgets. The others were Cook County Assessor James Houlihan and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. All know a thing or two about the dire need for more equitable systems for taxation and school funding.
Unfortunately, their support, along with the efforts of underfunded grassroots organizations (left, right and center), was not enough to bring the national mandate for change in alignment with local needs for action.
The wording on the ballot, crafted in back rooms by our legislators, was so prejudicial that the courts declared it unconstitutional and ordered supplemental clarification language to be handed to each voter.
When the Illinois legislature can stop school funding reform, and true property tax reform, and then taint the ballot language on an historical public policy issue that comes only every 20 years — there is something fundamentally broken in our government.
The 1,420,643 yes votes for a Con Con was, at the very least, a demand for a more equitable tax system to better educate our children and to keep our property tax bills payable.
A huge price was paid for the no vote stealthily orchestrated by union bosses
and well-connected political consultants. That price was a continuation of
underfunded public school system in areas that have low- to modest-priced homes
and, of course, higher property tax bills in the future.
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
Congratulations to the Sangamon County Farm Bureau, the Springfield NAACP and the Minority Caucus of the Democratic Party on your campaign against the advisory referendum on reducing our 29-member county board. Congratulations also and good luck to the winning county board candidates.
Elections on advisory referendums, whether they be about the size of our county board or whether we should protect voter privacy with an open primary, are about ascertaining the people’s will, and then hopefully carrying it out. Campaigns are about persuading voters to exercise their will by voting for a particular candidate or for or against a particular proposition.
On this score these groups did a good job of persuading voters to come around to
their point of view. Now that the people have expressed their will, that trumps
everything else. And our county board, on which I had the honor of serving,
should remain at its present size.
WORK HERE, LIVE HERE
Most of the good-paying jobs in Springfield are held by people who don’t actually live in Springfield. Springfield Clinic, for example, has full-time employees that come all the way from Athens, Chatham, Virden, etc.
I guess it’s a rule that as soon as you get a job that pays enough for you to afford a house instead of an apartment, you move out of town.
Or it might work like this: Someone from the east coast is appointed as director of a large corporation here in Springfield, and buys a million-dollar home in the country, goes to the local church and gets to know the congregation, then recruits them to work under him in Springfield instead of hiring people who live in Springfield. Am I close?
There should be a law that states, “If you get paid here, you should live here.” That way, the money in the local economy doesn’t permanently flow outward.
Nepotism is the rule rather than the exception. Poverty is the destination for
those of you who don’t know anyone in high places, especially in Springfield.