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More trouble for the GRT *** Updated x1 ***

Monday, Apr 30, 2007

Phil Kadner had a very good column over the weekend. I say that at least partly because he beat me to this angle.

What happened was the Illinois Education and A+ Illinois have organized a Statehouse rally this week. Originally, the rally was supposed to tout the governor’s gross receipts tax proposal to fund education. But the groups got some push-back, particularly from longtime tax swap supporters, and now it’s just a general “let’s fund education” to-do….

“We’re not choosing sides here,” said a spokesman for the Illinois Education Association, which actually did choose sides earlier this year by supporting the GRT. “This is a citizens rally to tell legislators the time has come to get something done.” […]

Voliva said the IEA agreed to a more generic rally in support of increased school funding. It also agreed not to allow any politicians to speak.

So her organization [Better Funding for Better Schools] — which includes the Illinois PTA, League of Women Voters and a number of grass roots education advocacy groups — agreed to participate.

Here’s the original IEA flyer on the rally and a close-up of the GRT language [click for larger pics]…

IEAflyer.jpg iea_closeup.jpg

And here’s the new IEA statement and the new A+ Illinois info on the rally…

current_iea_statement.jpg newaplusflier.jpg

Needless to say, this is not good news for Gov. Blagojevich’s tax and spending plan. The guv’s office has tried its very best to stamp out all mentions of the tax swap, but it keeps coming back up. The Illinois Federation of Teachers is currently withholding support from the spending component (along with the Illinois AFL-CIO).

There is little if any momentum for the governor’s plans at the Statehouse right now. A generic education funding rally is definitely not something he wanted.

* Meanwhile, a couple of pro-business think-tank types take after both the GRT and the tax swap in an op-ed entitled “Blagojevich’s tax plan is bad … Meeks’ is worse

Both proposals would have adverse, if not devastating, effects on the Illinois economy. But taxpayer advocates should hand it to the governor. His is only the second-most reckless plan on the table this spring.

And a Rockford Register-Star article includes this line about the competing proposals…

But chances of either plan passing appear slim as the plans compete for political support.

*** UPDATE *** The IEA has a new TV ad that makes no mention of the GRT. Entitled “Someday” it ends with the tagline “Tell your state Senator and Representative to support school funding reform.” Click the pic to watch [.mov file]…

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Napoleon has left the building - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 9:41 am:

    The Governor should let the Senate Dems pass the tax swap, they have enough votes to over-ride his veto and maybe the House would too with enough Republicans. Then he could stand his ground and blame them for the tax increase, but still get the cash to spend. His GRT is going nowhere real fast.

  2. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:13 am:

    What the “Do Nothing” types at the Heartland Institute and the Illinois Policy Institute fail to recognize is that Illinois’ has 800,000 high school drop outs — more than we currently have attending college. Those high school drop-outs are costing Illinois an estimated $10 BILLION EACH YEAR. That’s how much more we spend on welfare programs and prisons, and how much less we get in tax revenue and wages, due to our failing schools.

    The Bottom Line is, we can either invest in good schools, or we can pay the price for bad ones. If the Heartland Institute and EPI want to issue their own plan for improving public education, I’d love to hear it, but their criticisms of HB 750 ignore the costs of failing public schools, and are deeply flawed.

  3. - Cassandra - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:17 am:

    It’s pretty amazing that the Senate Dems have enough votes now to raise our income taxes by 2 percent, if in fact they do.

    If, on top of no electric bill rollbacks our legislators also get credulous Illinois taxpayers to pay more income tax in exchange for precious little property tax relief (and for a short time, too) and for highly speculative improvements in public education, I guess we deserve them.

    Maybe most of my fellow citizens are less concerned about what things cost than I am although widespread complaints about electric rates suggest otherwise. But I think it’s time for a 21st century version of the famed Boston Tea Party. Far better than just rolling over and paying up.

  4. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:52 am:

    If the tax swap hasn’t happened yet, why does A+ Illinois think it will happen in the future?

    The tax swap idea has many skeptics who see it increasing the pot of money for teacher salaries, but relatively small property tax relief.

  5. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:56 am:

    YDD, will providing more money to education decrease the number of drop outs? How much will it cost to increase graduation rates? How much will graduation rates increase?

    IMO there needs to be comprehensive reform of education that offers significant improvements in education for all.

    If there’s a serious education reform package that addresses the real issues then we can make the case to fund the reforms.

    But it’s hard to persuade taxpayers who are seeing their household incomes go down that they should pay more taxes so teachers and bureaucrats can get comfy pay raises every year.

  6. - Summer in Springpatch - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 1:14 pm:


  7. - Cassandra - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 1:51 pm:

    I don’t mind paying teachers well but I believe the teachers’ unions have arranged matters so that a rising tide of education monies lifts all teacher salary boats, including the many many teachers who do not have the educational achievement or intelligence to teach effectively.
    So in effect, pouring all this additional money into education will result in a general inflation of all teacher and administrator salaries with no increase in teacher/administrator value. School quality will remain the same as will the relative education quality in poor and wealthy school districts. The numbers will just be bigger, especially the salary numbers for all school personnel, not just the teachers. There will be happy janitors, too.

    I suppose there are some ways that increased funding could improve education but just throwing the money out their isn’t going to do it. And that’s what 750 does, it throws the money out there, as does, in large part, Blago’s GRT.

  8. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 2:25 pm:

    And instead, the Heartland Institute and the Illinois Policy Institute propose (specifically, now)??

  9. - money matters - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 3:28 pm:

    Cassandra, How do you think all of the wealthy suburban schools acquire some of the best teachers in the state? Could it be that the salaries are the reason teachers from all over the country compete to work in these schools? Why is it that teaching is never listed by the money magazines as one of the top careers to go in to?

    The GRT does require specific, proven, programs for funding to go towards and 750 will do so as well before it’s all over.

  10. - b-matt - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:03 pm:

    I think some clarification might be in order here. When 750 was the big talk, IEA made the mistake of supporting only that bill, and it caused problems. Long before the GRT was even introduced, IEA has been pushing its Invest in Excellence campaign and decided it would, rather than support once specific piece of legislation, support legislation that fit its outlined principles (as described in that first piece you’ve shown). It just so happened that the GRT proposal came out and met those principles, so the IEA supported the GRT based on that. But, they have said all along they will not tie themselves to a single piece of legislation, and they realize that any legislation will very likely not look exactly like 750 did or like the GRT does.

    And the “new” TV ad you shared is not new. It’s been airing since the weekend Obama announced, which has been about 6 weeks I think. It made no mention of the GRT because it was produced and released before the GRT, for the same reasons outlined earlier - it was part of their push to get school funding fixed, not to push for one piece of legislation or another.

  11. - Y NM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:10 pm:

    Really Cassandra? It just “throws the money out there”? You argue, it seems, that a tax increase/swap would increase funding for all school districts. That’s not true. It would, and should, provide money to districts that need it, and should raise the foundation level and fund mandates (i.e. those related to special education services). School funding reform shouldn’t be about just “throwing the money out there”, but should be about leveling the playing field and ensuring all students in Illinois have access to education that is equitably and adequately funded.

    And to be honest, I’m with Steve. I’d love to see some alternative proposals from those who are against efforts to this point. But I have not seen any that can hold water.

  12. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:13 pm:

    High functioning teachers connect with high functioning districts because they are the best places to work.

    Also, high functioning districts tend to retain their teachers.

    There will never be enough money to attract top teachers to dysfunctional schools and dysfunctional districts.

  13. - Y NM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:21 pm:

    *One* of the reasons high functioning teachers connect with high functioning districts is because they are often also “high”-paying district. And *one* of the reasons high functioning districts retain their teachers is because of salary and benefits.

    So you don’t think that making lower functioning districts better funded will attract and retain at least some higher functioning teachers? So, Carl, what’s the solution?

  14. - Cassandra - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:50 pm:

    Well, for starters, I’d like to see an end to teacher tenure, teacher and administrator pay based on performance not seniority, an expanded voucher system, and complete transparency regarding specific teacher performance including
    comparisons with other teachers teaching in similar classrooms. I’d also like to see an expanded school year in lieu of the current lengthy summer vaction for teachers.

  15. - Y NM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:51 pm:

    No solutions to the funding problem in that list Cassandra.

  16. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:55 pm:

    The first part of solving the problem is understanding what we have and what we want.

    Let’s figure out what our goals should be for a modern public education system.

    And then we need to do a better job of preparing and supporting parents. We need to produce better administrators. We need better teachers.

    We need to acknowledge and address the abysmal discipline situation in low-functioning schools.

  17. - Carl Nyberg - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 4:57 pm:

    Paying teachers based on seniority creates a situation where burned-out teachers can’t afford to quit.

    To deal with this districts pass early retirement incentive packages. This culls good teachers with seniority as well as the burn-outs.

  18. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 5:34 pm:

    And C, what you’re asking for would require abolishment or emasculation [I know, sexist verb, I couldn’t think of another one quickly] of teacher’s unions, and therefore ain’t gonna happen

  19. - YNM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 5:45 pm:

    Steve, you mean we can’t just unilaterally abolish teacher’s unions? We actually might have to find ways to work with them?

    It might be interesting to note, for those who are paying attention, that the IEA has said all along it realized that with school funding reform comes more global education reform. And not only do they realize that, in many ways they’ve been driving the discussion. It’s the IEA that passed at it’s march statewide meeting a resolution about exploring Enhanced Pay. Sometimes groups are willing to talk, but other have to be willing to listen and join in the conversation.

    Furthermore …
    Ending Teacher Tenure = no cost savings (though it *might* make it easier to fire poor teachers). It is unfortunate though that administrators can’t seem to weed them out in the FOUR YEARS they already have to do so.

    Pay for Performance = cost increase. No way will the base pay be lowered. You’re gonna have to start somewhere. So you’re negotiating increase on top of that base. If anything your cost might be a wash, but I know A LOT of good teachers. My guess is it would actually cost more than your standard increase do now.

    Vouchers = would drain money from an already hurting system and would not lead to any real solutions or reform. I’ve yet to hear an explanation for this that is convincing.

    Transparent Teacher Comparisons/Performance =
    I’m not sure I see a lot of merit to making official personnel evaluations public. Do other employees, private or public, have their official evaluations and personnel information released to the public? Furthermore, I’m not sure what good this would do the public? Can you carry out this argument for me and show me where it leads? And also explain how it helps the funding problem?

    Year-round School = possibly some benefits on its own merits, but definitely not a cost savings. No way is this going to be a benefit to the pocketbooks of Joe and Jane Taxpayer. Or am I missing something here?

  20. - Disgusted - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 6:08 pm:

    YNM - regarding Transparent Teacher Companisons, I think it would give parents an opportunity to see how the proposed teacher for their child has performed in the past. My two primary school grandchildren went to school younger than most but had a hard time adjusting, despite being extremely bright and well-spoken. They just have a hard time with change. The teachers at their school thought they were 1. ADD or 2. autistic or 3. needed to repeat kindergarden or 4. needed private tutors.

    My daughter went to the school and watched the teaching process from outside the classroom through the door window, without letting the teachers see her. What she saw was that the teacher spent all her time with the kids who were “cooperating”, passive and quiet while ignoring those who couldn’t keep up, were unhappy or had other listening/following directions problems. Once it was pointed out to the principal what was happening, the classroom situation changed and lo and behold, all of a sudden my grandchildren were right up there with or ahead of the rest and still are.

    I have taught in private high schools and at the college level and unless teachers are committed to all, not just the perceived “good” ones, everyone loses.

  21. - YNM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 6:18 pm:

    So how does making that information about teachers help the public in general? And the reality is that children need to learn to work with different types of people and teachers, because that’s real life. Most parents I know already know how teachers have performed in the past … it makes its way quickly throughout the neighborhood.

    I’m confident that your daughter approached the teacher first without going to the principal? And I assume she collected this data on the classroom over a period of time and not just one or two class periods?

    Otherwise that’s no argument for making teacher personnel records and evaluations public. Especially since not all districts use evaluation instruments that measure the same things .. and not all principals apply the given rubrics consistently.

    I think most parents, if they have an issue with a teacher, would approach the teacher. And *most* teachers would listen and take the feedback into consideration. A public release of evaluations won’t alleviate that.

    And if a parent sees a teacher’s evaluation and doesn’t like what they see, what’s their recourse?

  22. - Huh? - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 6:56 pm:

    I am opposed to the GRT for 1 simple reason - it sends more money into that cesspool also known as the State of Illinois Government.

    They can’t manage the money they already have, what makes anybody think that they will be able to manage an additional $5-8 billion more?

    Haven’t there been some studies which show that people who are suddenly rich spend it on frivolous things and are soon broke?

  23. - YNM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 7:18 pm:

    My apologies for leading some into a tangential conversation and somewhat off-topic. I am curious what others think about the original topic of the post? …

  24. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 7:41 pm:

    What does “can’t manage the money they already have” mean, with some specificity?

  25. - fed up - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 8:24 pm:

    the reason teachers dont like vouchers is they will give students a chance to learn. Teachers unions are all about money money money how about teaching. With all the free time teachers have maybe they could think of a way to actually have the kids learn. teachers unions like the auto workers are destroying this country high pay for low quality work.

  26. - Anonymous - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 8:37 pm:

    cant manage the money they already have lets see. The airline the state operates at a huge loss for the lawmakers,but rod lets his contributors and staff use at a huge cost to the state the underfunded pension plans, the $15000 signs that say Rod blagovich open road tolling the money Rod spends by moving the state capitol to chicago the no bid contracts that go to campaign contributors the state jobs that go to campaign contributors. The millions Rod spent of on unusable flu vaccines. The millions Rod is spending to fight freedom of information requests on subponas relating to corruption investigations in his administration. These are but a few examples of the state not managing the money it already recieves

  27. - Gene Parmesan - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 9:18 pm:

    “Ending Teacher Tenure = no cost savings (though it *might* make it easier to fire poor teachers). It is unfortunate though that administrators can’t seem to weed them out in the FOUR YEARS they already have to do so.”– what a joke. how could ending tenure not make it easier to fire poor teachers. and administrators weeding them out after 4 years of a possible 35 year career? you gotta be kidding me. who else gets that kind of career protection? no wonder steve jobs credits the teachers unions with being the #1 problem in education.

  28. - YNM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 9:23 pm:

    Fed up … you might very well be fed up, but please don’t come here spewing that stuff. Seriously, teacher don’t like vouchers because they give kids a chance to learn? First, tell me how vouchers give kids a chance to learn. Secondly, find me a teacher who isn’t in it to help kids learn.

    And teachers unions are all about money? Yep, that’s why in many districts it’s the unions that are helping to keep boards and administrations focused on student achievement. Last I checked it was usually the boards that were all about money.

    Not sure why you’re so angry with teachers, or why you think they’re destroying this country, but whether or not you agree with improving school funding, I’m not sure you could defend that stuff you spewed.

  29. - YNM - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 9:26 pm:

    Gene, I believe I conceded that ending tenure MIGHT make it easier to fire poor teachers. The reality is, you still have to have an administrator who is capable or knowing what makes a good teacher and doing something about it. Tenure doesn’t make it impossible to get rid of a bad teacher, it just means that you have to have a documented reason to do so. You still have not explained how ending tenure changes the funding issue though. Funny how, whenever school funding gets discussed, so many of the Family Taxpayer Network show up to talk about the kinds of education reform they want, but refuse to address funding at a intelligent level of discourse.

  30. - Mary Fioretti - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 9:30 pm:

    The GRT, and I can’t believe rational people are considering this, compounds taxation which is imposed on every transaction of the business cycle, a product is subjected to multiple levels of taxation. That tax is passed on to the consumer, the hardworking people of the State of Illinois - I think I heard that bandied about several times mentioned along with God too. GRT is a one time revenue source, not sustainable.

    Thanks to Sharon Voliva for sticking to a sustainable model. There are 10’s of thousands of us who believe - count business in on this too - that real change must occur.

    The debate over more funding for education for the State of Illinois hinges on overcoming four hurdles: academic accountability, fiscal responsibility, funding formula modifications or the elimination of them, and bringing money back to local districts. The funding of education has hit its apex - it’s as far as some communities will go - due to the over dependence upon local property taxes.

    To date no bill has addressed the foundation forumula.

    The only way funding for education can be modified is via a drastic change in policy or a constitutional amendment which no one is willing to take on except our friend at SSNS.

    Local school boards are keenly aware of the need for academic accountability and fiscal responsibility. At the state level, fiscal responsibility, funding formula modifications and preservation of local dollars, without tax increases, stand as road blocks.

    The question of whether having more money will enable school districts to deliver better academic results, becomes the focal point of any reform bill for education. When the most current national data on achievement as it relates to spending per student is examined, the top ten states in achievement are also among the top twenty in spending per student. The analysis does lead one to believe higher levels of funding directly relates to better results.

    The never ending clash of fiscal responsibility vs. adequate funding vs. academic accountability pit local communities against local boards, and send perplexing messages to state legislators. New York is an excellent example of the battle of politics vs. education vs economically challeged children.

    Currently, the mark of academic success is driven by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation. Please note that wealthy districts are opting out of Federal dollars so as not to be measured. That challenge to maintain AYP in schools needing extra attention lays squarely in the laps of school boards to examine where new money must be spent to remedy the youngsters that are failing before they move into society. This challenge is for all schools, not just those in economically challenged areas, to examine the data and identify areas where students fail to meet standards. Testing a year’s growth in a years time (Value Added Testing) should become the norm for evaluating each student and measuring academic accountability.

    In another arena where there is much hoopla is over the way in which money is returned to a community, as well as, the convoluted way in which the amount awarded to a district is determined. The current approach has created a “region against region” conundrum. If this was a simple fix it would be done.

    The current effort to address education finance reform through property tax abatement or reimbursement, property owners would see relief. Property tax abatement needs to be on solid ground. The garnering of new taxes will help to relieve the property tax burden while maintaining the level of revenue delivered to the school districts.

    The underlying issues of academic accountability, fiscal responsibility, foundation formula change, and appropriate allocation of new tax dollars to school districts will continue to challenge legislators and local school boards as they look at new dollars to help students become 21st century leaders. These are the times to historical change. The challenge is finding the political will.

    Critics of any educational funding reform skate freely over the complexities and believe that there is an easy solution. This just is not the case.

    To address issues that have to do with National Labor Law, as a few have alluded to here, have to be addressed at the National Level and to keep bringing them up consistantly where School Boards are bound by the law both Federally and thru the State only muddies the water when we are looking for a state solution to a difficult situation.

  31. - steve schnorf - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:54 pm:

    Anon, those are pissant amounts of money. Tell me something involving real money where the state can’t manage its money well. Show me somthing that could really make a difference in solving the state’s structural imbalance. Don’t give me stupid penny saved is penny earned crap.

  32. - WWDMD - Monday, Apr 30, 07 @ 10:58 pm:

    for the record…HB750 does have a place for accountability. What makes this effort different??? As the Chicago Trib editorial last week noted the change in thinking of the legislators. NO OPEN CHECKBOOKS.
    If the hartland insitute has any suggestions besides “cutting” hen lets hear them. Merit pay? OK, but based on what since everyone is not at the same beginning point?

    THERE IS NO ONE MAGIC BULLET TO IMPROVE SCHOOL, in tun, there is no single problem that will fix them. Yes , we should be mindful of the money and expect something in return. All sides (750, GRT and the do nothing)should all agree on this.

    Thats the really hard part!

  33. - Gene Parmesan - Tuesday, May 1, 07 @ 8:12 am:

    I hope the pro-GRT and 750 people have something more to offer than, “it’s the only legislation out there.” Bad policy is bad policy, even if there aren’t good alternatives. It’s great that Steve asks for alternatives, and it would be even better if some D’s & R’s got together and came up with a better idea than throwing money at the problem. Let’s just not justify going forward with huge tax increases because it’s the only thing out there.

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* Rozner: Cards execute plan to perfection to take Game 1
* Boy Scouts closing Woodstock's Camp Lakota, two in Wisconsin
* Officials: Five people hospitalized after Long Grove crash
* Lackey, home runs too much for Chicago Cubs

* House lawmakers overcome hurdle on key tra...
* Rodney Davis talks funding with Bloomingto...
* The agency that fought Illiana gets a new ...
* Rep. Dold takes educational cruise down Ch...
* Lawmakers decry high turnover rate of VA h...
* CBD Oil, and politics
* Simon considering state Senate bid
* Killer Congressman Tom MacArthur trying to...
* Shutdown? State may not notice
* Rep. Bob Dold

* Boulder Rep. Jared Polis introduces afford......
* Senator Durbin Calls on VA and Department ......

* Kirk supported money to Illinois waterways......

* Elected (and un-elected) officials deciding when, where and who can speak and ask questions.
* Breaking: McHenry teachers and board reach a tentative agreement.
* Ramp From Lower Wacker To LSD Closure Starts Monday
* “The Driver’s Side” – News From The Motorist’s Perspective
* No political bets -- this means St. Louis won’t get Cubbie-blue cheesecake
* McHenry board cancels health insurance of striking teachers.
* Keeping retirement weird. A little place in Michigan.
* Speaker Softly and Carry a Big Stick
* Parents, Advocates Speak Out Against CPS Special Need Education Cuts
* Special education

* Board’s New Rules Will Reduce Risk of Tire Fires and Disease-Carrying Mosquitos
* Illinois Hosts Inaugural Interstate Medical Licensure Compact - Aims to increase health care access through multi-state physician licensure program
* IEMA Announces Elgin Community College Attains ‘Ready to Respond Campus’ Designation - Elgin one of five Illinois campuses to receive distinction
* New Mortgage Loan Interface Increases Efficiency, Compliance
* State Fire Marshal Ushers In Fire Prevention Week - “Hear the Beep Where You Sleep!”

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