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Let's talk school funding solutions
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 8/22/2008 12:08 AM

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When it comes to school funding, Illinois has come down with a bad case of "boiling frog" syndrome.

As the story goes, if you throw a frog into boiling water, he'll jump right out. But if you drop that same frog into cold water and very slowly crank up the heat, the poor thing won't even realize he's becoming frog soup.

Anger over Illinois' outdated school funding system has been simmering softly for a generation, especially in communities hardest hit by the state's decreasing support for education.

Rev. Sen. James Meeks and other Chicago faith leaders have urged parents to enroll their children in better-funded north suburban schools. Now they plan to turn the heat up on downtown businesses leaders by holding classes in their marble-lined office lobbies.

Illinois' Legislative Black Caucus has proposed "doomsday" legislation that would eliminate property taxes as a school funding source by the end of 2010, forcing state leaders to find a new way to fund education.

And this week, the Chicago Urban League has filed a historic lawsuit against the state of Illinois, challenging the constitutionality of a funding scheme that systematically shortchanges poor and minority students.

Springfield, are you feeling the heat yet? Now let's figure out how to solve this crisis once and for all.

A comprehensive solution must include the following ingredients:

-A reliable, sustainable new statewide revenue source for schools, such as an increase in Illinois' individual and corporate income tax, with protections for low- and middle-income families.

-Strong academic and fiscal accountability measures geared toward boosting student achievement and preparing young people for college and the jobs of the 21st Century.

-A fairer balance between local property taxes and state funds to support education.

The clock is ticking: As Illinois leaders stand by, other states and nations are aggressively preparing their students to succeed in the global economy.

Will Illinois be able to compete?

Mary Ellen Guest

Campaign Manager

A+ Illinois

Chicago