Kadner: Don’t trust state leaders on taxes or education
Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org | (708) 633-6787 June 22, 2012 9:56PM
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn
Updated: July 25, 2012 6:40AM
You are just so darn stupid. That’s what your elected leaders in Illinois believe.
The governor is again pitching hard to shift the funding for suburban and downstate teacher pensions onto the backs of homeowners.
He would tell you that’s not true. Gov. Pat Quinn contends that your property tax bill will not increase. He’s claiming that your local school districts, which have been raising your property tax for years, will simply absorb the cost of the pension shift which will take place over a period of six or nine years.
I would remind you that previous governors claimed that money from the state lottery would fund public education.
I would remind you that the first income tax in this state, passed under former Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie, was supposed to fund public education.
And I would remind you that Illinois has ranked near the bottom of the nation for nearly 20 years in the percentage of public education costs paid by the state.
That’s one of the big reasons your property tax bills keep increasing. The property tax on average pays more than 60 percent of the cost of public education.
That state pays about 33 percent, although the Illinois Constitution states: “The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”
Why does the state need to shift the teachers’ pension burden to local school districts? Because the elected officials of Illinois failed to make adequate payments into the system for decades.
Someone should have gone to jail for the billions of dollars that were mismanaged. Instead, many of the same people were re-elected.
Quinn, House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) say the teacher pension shift is necessary because the current system is unfair to Chicago. The city pays for its teachers’ pensions. The state pays for suburban and downstate teachers.
But Chicago has the largest commercial property tax base in the state, and Chicago homeowners pay a much lower tax rate than do people in some of the poorest Southland suburbs.
This state’s public school funding system is unfair and inadequate. Those aren’t my words. That was the conclusion of three separate blue-ribbon panels appointed by governors and the Legislature to study the issue.
Those panels included conservative businessmen, academics, politicians and other so-called experts.
Two state school superintendents who said the public schools were inadequately funded were run out of office by politicians because they didn’t want to hear that sort of talk. The state school board was reorganized when its members complained about the state’s school funding.
So long as the property tax is the main revenue source for the public schools, districts in wealthy areas with large commercial bases will be able to spend more on education than those in the poorest areas.
This means wealthy suburbs have lots of extracurricular programs for children, and poorer districts have few or none.
It means wealthy districts get to spend more on teachers, while those districts facing the greatest challenges pay less,or are forced to put a heavier tax burden on their homeowners.
State lawmakers have known about this problem for 25 years and have done nothing about it.
You want to talk about fairness? Take all the property tax revenue from Chicago and the wealthy suburbs and put it into one state pot from which all the school districts in Illinois draw funds. That would be fair to the children of this state.
Quinn also says that many school districts have reserve funds they could use to pay the pension costs. Well, those funds won’t last forever if costs keep going up. And adding the teacher pension burden would certainly drain those reserves.
What the governor and lawmakers are basically saying is that school districts that have done a good job of managing expenses ought to suffer because state officials screwed things up royally.
And now, those state officials are the ones we ought to trust when they say the pension financing shift won’t raise property tax bills.
Quinn talks a lot about having skin in the game. Well, homeowners have been skinned to the bone in this state.
I’ve asked for legislators and the governor to give up their pensions as a way of having skin in the game, but they don’t want to do that. It’s your hide they’re after.
State officials like to claim they’re pro-education. Whenever you hear an Illinois politician say they love kids, I would put the children in the basement, grab a baseball bat and call a child abuse hotline.
There’s not a pro-education official I know of down in Springfield.
Trust us, the state lawmakers say.
In other words, they think you’re all idiots.