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Chronic school funding inequities shouldn’t be fixed with more taxes

Belleville News Democrat

Friday, April 7, 2017  |  Editorial  |  By The Editorial Board

Education Funding (36a) , Taxes, sales (88)
On Tuesday, a lot of schools were asking, and voters were answering. Voters said they were doing their part by paying out some of the nation’s highest taxes.

Although most school districts demonstrated how the St. Clair County sales tax proposal would be used to offset property taxes, there were still plenty of things in voters’ minds that should be done before schools ask them for more money.

Top of the list is consolidation. One- or two-school districts should go away, meaning a bunch of Belleville High School District 201’s elementary feeder districts should be combined. Consolidation of O’Fallon Township High School District 203’s three elementary feeder districts was a topic in the city elections and should remain a topic. Take St. Libory Elementary District’s 86 students and combine them with the Freeburg elementary, Smithton elementary and the Freeburg High School districts and you still have one small district of 2,013 students.

Edwardsville voters were alone in agreeing to a tax hike, but it was their first since 1978 and the extra $183 on a $100,000 home is still comparable to other local districts. Voters approved the hike after the district first took on some pain by cutting 101 employees, cutting about $2.5 million in spending and facing another $7 million in debt to make up for state money that has never come.

And speaking of purloined state money, we are now seeing 17 school districts suing Illinois to get what they are owed for low-income students. They don’t have the state money to offer the state-mandated curriculum. They use 20-year-old texts and books that don’t reflect the three most recent presidents.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was in the area in time for the lawsuit announcement. He said Illinois has the worst state support for schools in the country, which pushes the burden to property taxpayers.

“We have the biggest gap between what low-income schools get and high-income schools get, and that’s not fair to the teachers, and that’s not fair to the students,” he said.

It’s not fair to taxpayers, either.

There’s plenty of taxpayer money going into an unfair system. You paid for it, you’re not getting what you paid for, so you need to pay more?

That’s Springfield math. Voters need to better educate those who don’t or won’t fix school funding and the state formula that perpetuates the disparities.