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“No option will be ignored”

Thursday, Nov 30, 2006

John Patterson has a very good article in the Daily Herald today about a bipartisan group of legislators who plan to work on the state’s education funding issue next year.

Saying no option will be ignored, a group of state lawmakers on Wednesday said they expect to offer up this spring a comprehensive and viable plan to overhaul how the state funds education. […]

History isn’t on their side. Like-minded groups have, for decades, launched similar efforts with much fanfare but ultimately few results. […]

Political observers noted that for possibly the first time in recent history, the lawmakers involved acknowledged it’s the state’s regional, not political, differences that have thwarted similar efforts.

And that translates into reaching out to suburban lawmakers rather than bashing property-rich suburban schools. Those involved said the debate is too often framed as rich versus poor, a stereotyping that dooms any plan.

As Patterson notes later, the odds are definitely stacked against this group, but go read the whole thing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


17 Comments
  1. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 9:20 am:

    Something else has changed too: Senate Democrats picked up seats in Lake County, Kane County, Will County, suburban Cook County and downstate Illinois — all with candidates who openly supported one form of education reform or another. Emil Jones can’t ignore the fact that his targets all campaigned on promises to change the way we fund schools and provide property tax relief, and you can bet that the lesson of the Senate Democrats’ pick-ups wasn’t lost on Madigan either.

    There’s another point too: Lisa Madigan is running for Governor in 2010, and cramming a bill down Blagojevich’s throat with a veto-proof majority puts Lisa Madigan in a great position for the Democratic primary.


  2. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 9:26 am:

    We have had Democratically controlled Executive and Legislative branches in Illinois long enough to see if they practice what they have been promising and preaching for decades.

    Obviously, the Democrats don’t care beyond flapping their lips on this vital state issue. If Republicans want to have a future in Illinois, they will need to start crafting real proposals to counter Democratic inaction on education. This is what these two Republicans seem to be sensing. I see this as a positive political move. It is just too bad that it is coming from the party so far in the minority there is no power to make their proposals happen.

    Illinois education is in the tank, and you can thank Blagojevich and company for it. That is, unless Rod thinks he can still blame Ryan for everything. You know he will continue to try, right?


  3. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 9:43 am:

    VanillaMan - I agree with you that Blagojevich is pretty good at passing the buck, but you’re out-of-touch with reality if you think that this problem somehow began in 2002.

    Prior to 2002, it was Senate Republicans that were the major roadblock to education funding reform. Madigan worked with Gov. Edgar to pass a proposal through the House in 1997. Pate wouldn’t allow a vote.

    Since 2002, Blagojevich has been the major obstacle. His promise of a veto, and the lack of anything close to a veto-proof majority in the legislature, kept things from gathering much steam. With Democrats picking up seats in both chambers, odds have definitely improved. As CapFax points out, the fact that proponents have finally committed major financial resources to an outside game changes things considerably as well.


  4. - Squideshi - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 10:12 am:

    Bipartisan is a dirty word. It means Democrats and Republicans, and the exclusion of all other political parties. A better word is nonpartisan. I only mention this because there are far too many tax-exempt organizations claiming to be bipartisan, and that’s tantamount to showing a bias against all new political parties–something that can ultimately cost them their tax-exempt status.


  5. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 10:58 am:

    Squideshi — it’s the group of lawmakers that’s bipartisan, not A+ Illinois.


  6. - just looking - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 11:36 am:

    Yellow Dog, I really dont think there were any lessons about the Senate Dem pick ups for Madigan. He has often said he didn’t want any more seats and that being veto proof is just a pain in the rear.

    If madigan had wanted he could have easily picked 4 more seats.

    In HD 62 Elman lost to Cole by by only 685 votes and Madigan spent a grand total of $9000 on that race. (in a senate district that went D)

    IN HD 43 Munson won by 1116 votes with Madigan only spending $30K (in a senate district that went D)

    IN HD 69 Wait beat Tuite by 1307 votes and Madigan spent a whopping total of $0.00 dollars on that race

    IN HD 46 Reboletti beat Vosicky by a total of 296 votes with Madgian spending absolutely nothing on this race.

    Again, Emil picked up seats on the back end of natioanl anti-bush and anti-Iraq war tidal wave. There was nothing “special” about Emil’s campaigns. Madigan could have easily picked up just as many seats if wanted to deal with the veto proof headache.


  7. - YNM - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 1:24 pm:

    A+ Illinois is a coalition of several interest in education issues in Illinois … any group that includes such a variety of people is going to be naturally bipartisan, or non-partisan if you prefer. Whether or not all the decisions and recommendations groups like that make are pleasing to all those involved with the coalition may be another story, but I know there are those of us who align ourselves with such campaigns that politically sit on either side of the aisle. And I know coalitions like A+ Illinois are willing to work with politicians from any political bent if they are serious about fixing Illinois’ school funding woes.

    You are going to be hearing more about this, and it’s nice to see some politicians, regardless of party, understand the urgency of this cause. 2007 has to be the year we fix some of these problems and look to make funding adequate and equitable for all of the state’s children and schools.

    I hope some others jump on board as well … and that we see more media attention given to both the issue and the possible solutions to the problem. It’s a discussion our state and the people of Illinois need to have. Badly. And right now.


  8. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 3:43 pm:

    Just looking: you are assuming that Madigan can continue to hold onto the downstate seats that he has. Given the political trends — really do to economic stagnation more than anything else — I think it’s inevitable that House Republicans will pick up seats in the south. The only place for Madigan to regain ground is in the suburbs.

    You’re argument that Madigan was tossing candidates under the bus is also based on flawed assumptions drawn from the shallow reflection of political reporters who have probably never even had a conversation with Madigan, let alone any insight into his political strategy.

    Everybody likes to ignore the fact that Emil Jones only had one seat to defend — and not a very hard one. Madigan was defending Granberg, Smith, Boland, Flider, Gordon, and even Jakobsson to some degree. Challengers didn’t get extraordinary resources from Madigan because Madigan was spending all of his money defending downstate incumbents. It’s that simple.

    When he realized he had some cash left over at the end, he put it into the one race where he thought it would do the most good: Crespo v. Parke. The fact that Madigan fought to pick up that seat pretty much blows your whole “Madigan doesn’t want to win more seats” theory all to hell.


  9. - Mike Williams - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 5:52 pm:

    Yellow Dog- you’re the man, but the whole point is that Madigan could have easily spared two or three of those downstate districts had he spent some cash in the suburbs. He would have won those close races mentioned for a fraction of the cost he spent defending Granberg, Boland and the rest. It was not a very efficient use of resources on the Speaker’s part.

    That is why I had a problem with the Speaker’s targeting this year. I acknowledge that hindsight is 20-20, but it seems to me he could have picked up seats for much less than he spent defending those downstate incumbants. For the amount he spent on one race, say Granberg, he could have elected Sharyn Ellman, Vosicky, and Tuite. 3 for 1 ain’t bad in anyone’s book.

    If he is smart, he will dump Boland and back someone like Porter McNeil. Porter would not require boatloads of money to prop him up like Boland, and wouldn’t be such a pain in the neck in the caucus either.


  10. - Mike Williams - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 5:55 pm:

    sorry, i realize I didn’t answer the original question:

    this is the year to fix education funding. Period, end of story. If they don’t, expect more challenges from people like Meeks and other progressive Dems who have talked about the swap for decades. The natives on the Democratic reservation are getting restless, and it is time to deliver.

    Osterman, Feigenholtz, Ronen, and other city reps and senators from Blago’s back yard need to push this to get Blago off his dumb position of vowing to block any attempt to do the swap.


  11. - Cassandra - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 6:11 pm:

    I don’t think Meeks is going to be much help.

    Whenever Blago (or Daley) starts paying him any attention, he purrs like a kitty and goes away.


  12. - skater - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 7:49 pm:

    It’s interesting that people refer to education as something to “fix,” as if all it needs is a new set of brakes and an oil change. Schools can do more to prepare kids for living outside of the building, no question, but we have to remember how the emphasis on test scores has stymied teachers and administrators’ ability to actually educate. We also need to remember the external constraints, including a kid’s life at home, community involvement in local schools, the amount of emphasis placed on education by parents, etc (and their interest in their kid’s learning process). School funding will be batted around forever because schools will never have enough money to provide kids all that they need. Sure, more money will help, as will better teachers with good training and support, as will better school buildings and facilities, as will a increased emphasis on integrated curriculum. But don’t think that a change in the funding formula is going to be the cure all. There are a lot of things that we need to do in the best interest of kids, a lot of issues that we need to deal with, but many are tough to legislate, so the responsibility falls to schools.


  13. - muon - Thursday, Nov 30, 06 @ 11:51 pm:

    Skater raises a cricical point. It’s not only about funding the schools. Many in the public are willing to improve funding, but they feel that the current measures of accountability fail to make anything clear.

    To give an example in academics, it is difficult to see what comparison there is between 75 fifth graders in a school one year, and 80 different fifth graders the following year. Wouldn’t it be more meaningful to ask how those original 75 fifth graders perform in sixth grade the next year?

    On the financial side, many plans provide property tax relief. Accountability means a public expectation that relief is not short-lived.

    I agree that 2007 has great promise to address education in Illinois. I thought the same in 2003 with so many districts in such distress, and I was disappointed then. I hope for better this time.


  14. - Rich Miller - Friday, Dec 1, 06 @ 1:32 am:

    “Mike Williams,” generally in politics the old saying of “a bird in the hand…” is the rule. Incumbents always get protected first.


  15. - Truthful James - Friday, Dec 1, 06 @ 10:53 am:

    The idea of ‘fixing Education Funding’ is a Political Fix not an Education Fix.

    I have been involved with School Districts and their funding for thirty years, reviewed budgets and audits, the lot. I can assure you that more money does not beget greater Education Value. It does beget reelection and continued campaign funding by the unions.

    The governor and the legislature have this all gun decked. Rod asks the ISBE what increase in the foundation money will solve our education problems. ISBE controls a subordinate board, the EFAC. That group hires Augenblick and Myers to come up with a new number. A&M does regression analyses in which the quality of the teaching is not a variable, and punches out a number. Funny, but it is always MORE.

    The system is a closed loop, with a CIO/UAW closed shop industrial type union. When one Superintendent only refers to “Content mastery” instead of “Subject Matter mastery”; when the preponderance of advanced degrees are in education rather that in that Subject Matter area; when our course work cannot compare with that of the rest of the civilized world and our output handicaps the ability of my country to compete in a 21st Century world economy; when alternative sources of teachers are handicapped by our schools of education; when the ISBE dumbs down the standardized tests, norms up the results and lowers teacher certification requirements and recertification is verboten; when ballooning the final three years pay continues (albeit at a lower rate) and busts School budgets on a regular basis, hijacking both the District and the Pension Fund; when the legislature feasts on contributions from the unions to assure reelection and delivers special interest legislation affecting all the taxpayers — then it is tough to listen to people prate about adjusting sources of funding as if more money is the solution. Deck chairs on the Titanic, anyone?

    Teachers receive raises automatically for longevity and for additional course work in the Education field. Most can not qualify for graduate course work in the subject matter they are teaching. State Colleges are spending more than $7 Billion dollars on remediation each year of entering freshmen.

    Schools of education have foisted fuzzy math on students because it requires less teacher knowledge. For a long time we abandoned phonics in favor of whole words, allowed shetto grammar and spanglish as if these were the language of communication in the marketplace. We emphasized keeping children in ESL instead of pushing them into English immersion. We are in the process of going back to basics, but we have failed the last generation

    The UAW/automobile industry allusion above provides a clue to the solution. When the big three and ANC had a virtually monopoly on the production of new cars quality ws less than perfect but accepted as a fact of life. Now quality and finish on every manufacture is much higher. Why? Competition from foreign makers importing and eventually building here. I know that we want our children to receive the highest quality education so that they can achieve on behalf of their families the American dream of interclass mobility. We already have a sector of our population which has been shortchanged. They no longer believe that Education is an economic and social good. This has affected the last generation and affects the next generation, and the one after that. NCLB has failed us and the State has failed us

    We owe not the teachers but the families the best education we can provide. We need to change the way knowledge is delivered, increase the opportunities to the children. That involves Competitive Choice. Let the families choose from all certified schools by vesting them with an equal amount of money obtained from the Feds, the State and local taxes. Let them choose from local or other public schools, private schools, charter schools, home schooling and even religious schools as long as religion is taught in a separate classroom after normal hours — much as the Catholics teach CCD to their children attending public schools.

    Believe me when I say that with schools bidding on quality basis and competing for students it will cost less and it will reqard our children, their families and this nation more.

    The usual political solution to a problem is to throw money at it. That has not worked and will not work here. Like throwing hater onto a hot frying pan it sizzles away. Illinois legislators need to look at our neighboring states and discover how they can do more with less. 2007 is the year not to reform funding, although we might do that too, but to reform Education itself. That is something of which the legislature could be proud.


  16. - YNM - Saturday, Dec 2, 06 @ 1:35 pm:

    You know, James … as much as I appreciate your diatribe … it’s not just about MORE funding, but adequate and equitable funding for ALL of the children in Illinois. If you really think that every child in this state, regardless of their zip code, gets access to the same resources and that pulling up the bottom won’t help, I believe you are sadly mistaken and ill-informed, regardless of your 30 years of experience.


  17. - Truthful James - Sunday, Dec 3, 06 @ 1:17 pm:

    YNM –

    We have a situation where the thrust of HB750 and the lot is indeed a tax increase. It is about more money.

    My point is not adequate and equitable funding but rather adequate and equitable education.

    What good is more money when it goes into a leaky system which can not police itself? By any independent measure we are below average in this country.

    Yes we have special needs students, they must be attended to first. But education reform can not work without family assistance

    We need to get outside the present box. Perhaps the money distribution I suggested may not be correct. But competitive choice offers an alternative. It works in San Francisco. Vouchers work in Milwaukee. It works because parents are empowered and can better motivate the children. And it is proving less expensive than the present method.

    One final question. How is it that Indiana can deliver education at a better or equal quality with a much lower cost base? There is no good answer to that question, but equal quality is not what I am proposing, I want to see much improved quality brought into the classroom by teachers with varying education credentials, with work experience in the the applied sciences, who can bring subject matter mastery from degrees in the subject matter being taught and who have affection for their students and a love for what they are teaching.


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