When I arrived home from work today, I was greeted by my vivacious sweetieheart. She mentioned that she had received a call from my mother earlier today, and they had quite a nice chat. One of the items addressed was my sister. She is a teacher. From what I can tell, and would have been quite surprised to learn otherwise, is she is a damn good one.
Anyhow, here in “The Peoples Republick of Illinois” ™ © they are facing a severe shortage of funds for all levels of public education. This includes monies to pay teachers, provide for various special programs, extracurricular activities (sports, music, and the like), and assorted administrative/support folks. In short, the state is not just a tad over budget for the year, they are really f-ing broke … 12 BILLION DOLLARS broke! Something has to give, and in this case it is the schools which are starting to feel the pinch. (Or at least the most noticed/vocal group effected thus far.) To both call attention to their plight, and express a willingness to do SOMETHING, my sister, along with 15 thousand of her closest friends, marched on our State Capital today. Their main battle cry was, believe it or not, “Raise Taxes!!! Save our schools (and by extension, our children)!
Now I love my sister to death. And I feel she is correct in that the schools need to be funded, folks need to be paid for the work they do. Kids need to have access to a sound education. I also believe if individuals have been promised, in the form of a contract, “x” number of dollars/benefits for “y” amount of work, that said contract needs to be honored. This assumes both parties signed in good faith. Now if situations change down the line, and contracts need to be “re-negotiated” due to changes in either parties status, then so be it. But I think increasing the level of taxation in a state who already, and at all levels, is taxing it’s people and businesses at a very high level, all the while providing less and less for the dollars taken in, is not the brightest of ideas. At the end of the day what will result from this, is more and more businesses will take their tents and move to a more “business friendly” State (if at all possible). And those individuals who are able to do so, will follow suit. This will leave the State with an even smaller tax revenue base, with the same basic demands for services.
Indeed, there is a large number of folks out there (both private citizens and politicos who want to keep their jobs) who feel increasing taxes is not the answer.
The fact is, the State of Illinois has an abysmal record of fiscal responsibility. Corruption is a constant threat, rearing it’s head both at the State level (Rod Blagojevich and ex governor Ryan ring any bells?) and at the city level (Chicago, Chicago, that “machine driven” town), I would also assume the counties are not immune to this. A quick google check provides this and this for starters. But you can look for more on your dime, you get the point. So lets give the State (for albeit, a very good cause) even more of our hard earned money. That will “magically solve” the problem!
But we do need to do something. Perhaps I can offer a few suggestions.
1. LOWER TAXES. Yes, I said lower taxes. This will do a couple of things. First it will show both business and the public, we want more people and business to come and reside in this state. On average, one employed person produces aprox. 4000.00 in new revenue to the State. Get a few corporations to bring their people and plants to the state, and more monies will flow to the State coffers. Individuals with more money left in their pocket (via a lower tax rate) will have that much more to spend … both in the private sector, and for perhaps allowing for the public funding (on a local/individual level-via the PTA, for example) for extracurricular school programs (football jerseys, band uniforms, etc).
2. Streamline Government. Cutback on the paperwork. Cutback on the entrenched agents/bureaucrats. Adopt a line item veto provision for the Governor. Reduce programs or remand them back to the next lower level of government. (Country/Township/City) Give the people the legitimate opportunity to address final bills. In other words, allow enough time for a proper review of each bill, by the citizens of the State. Who, in turn, contact their representative to express their pleasure or displeasure at what is “in” said bill. This will allow for greater accountability of our representatives, and the State legislature as a whole.
3. Find better ways for the State to do business/provide services. For example: Those of us who grew up in this State, remember being told (or our parents being told) the system of tollways crisscrossing the state, would, at some given point in time (which always seemed to get pushed forward for some reason or another /snark) be paid for, and the tolls would cease. (Or become some low static rate, for upkeep and maintenance.) Well, due to corruption, dealing with “the lowest bidder” on contracts, getting away from concrete and going to some form of asphalt, increasing usage by an increasing amount of vehicles, we have ended up with a toll road system which will forever cost us something. (And that “something” keeps going higher and higher.) There are advances out there in the way of building and maintaining said road ways which will cut down the costs, both in the long and short term. Why are these not being implemented? (That was a rhetorical question.)
4. Other then to provide the funding for same, and providing a basic MINIMAL “guideline” on what should be taught. (minimum standards, if you will) get the State out of the education system, at the primary levels of education. Pay rates for teachers shall be set at each school district. Teachers will be expected to be competent in the subject matter in which they are teaching. They will be held accountable for the active dissemination of same. At anytime (over a given amount of time) they fail to meet the standards proscribed by the district within which they teach, regardless, of having reached tenure. they will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including being fired. If, in the case of “inner-city” schools/school districts, levels of funding do not exist to meet the minimum standards (as set forth by the State), additional funding from the next higher level of government may be requisitioned, but only so much as to meet said requirements. An example of “meeting minimum requirements”: allowing for musical instruments, for a “school band”. An example of “over and above minimum requirements”: demanding monies be made available for band uniforms.
This is just a start. Given time, more could be said or proposed. But the point is, throwing money at something (in this case the schools) has never resolved, at least beyond the very short term, anything. In Chicago alone, the current estimate is we “spend” around $15,800.00 per student, in the Chicago public schools. Yet the results are far from being satisfactory across the board.
To my sister I say, yes! Yes, pay those who expect to be paid. And by all means, fund (to the extent, they are able to provide a sound, basic, education) the schools. At least in the short term. But for the long term, increasing taxes is not the answer. Smarter government, more translucent government, government answering and responding to the needs of the people, and not the corrupt business as usual machine we have in Springfield (and in the Chicago metropolitan area). Change that, and you might see not only education, schools, and students blossoming, but the whole State too. Then, perhaps the “Land of Lincoln”, may begin finally, to live up to it’s full potential.