A new direction for education in Illinois?

Here is what the governor of Illinois has just proposed to fund his state school system. There are a number of similarities between our two states in terms of how we fund our schools, including the corporate tax rates (or lack thereof). It shows a different kind of leadership on funding reform than we’re used to. Illinois is certainly a state to keep an eye on. If this legislation is successful, it will also provide a strong counter argument to many of our elected state representatives who’ve stated many times, over the years, that we will lose large businesses if they have to pay more than minimal (or no) taxes. Excepts from here below.

“[The Illinois governor] spells out an ambitious, progressive, populist agenda the likes of which has not been seen in the Midwest for years.

If he can build public support and successfully steer it through the General Assembly, the people of Illinois could enjoy a healthier, more prosperous future, and the state could set an example for the rest of the nation.

Mr. Blagojevich’s plans would do much to solve two of the greatest problems facing middle- and working-class people: the quality of public education and access to decent health care. Achieving those goals, which embody universal American values, costs money, he readily admits: about $6 billion annually. For that, the governor would turn mainly to large companies that sell goods and services in Illinois. . .

In his budget address last week, Mr. Blagojevich proposed spending an extra $10 billion over four years to improve Illinois public schools. This, he said, would narrow the gap between the richest districts of suburban Chicago, which spend $28,000 per student, and the poorer districts downstate and elsewhere, which spend as little as $6,000 per student. More schools would offer full-day kindergarten classes, and children in poorly performing schools would have longer school years.

Right now, the state pays only about 30 percent of the cost of public education. Local property taxes cover the rest, inevitably leading to inequities. Mr. Blagojevich believes his plan eventually could lead to reductions in property taxes. . .

The governor didn’t blame the businesses for taking advantage of rules that let them minimize tax payments, but he hammered repeatedly on the fact that those rules are stacked in business’ favor and that ordinary citizens enjoy no such advantages.

In fact, business’ share of state revenue from income taxes has been shrinking. In 1977, corporations paid 21 percent of all Illinois income taxes. Now it’s 12 percent. Mr. Blagojevich pointed out that 37 Fortune 100 companies located in Illinois did $1.2 billion worth of business in the state — and paid no Illinois income taxes.”

Robert Godfrey

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Filed under AMPS, National News, School Finance

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