* The Southern Illinoisan ran an editorial with the headline “More school cuts? Look somewhere else!”…
The school funding formula is a good place to start the work – and stop the bleeding from $800 million in education cuts since 2009. What’s needed is public support for a bipartisan reform plan touted by former Gov. Jim Edgar and members of a senate education committee. It would put most state education funding into one account, then require districts, including over-funded Chicago, to demonstrate their needs before receiving any funds. As we’ve previously said, Chicago currently receives a percentage of all state education dollars to spend at its own discretion – a system that yields the city hundreds of millions more than if it were held to the same standard as other school districts.
It’s time to take education off the chopping block.
We agree with Matt Vanover of the Illinois State Board of Education. “ … the future of Illinois really depends on how well we teach our students right now,” he said. “If we continue to cut our education, if we continue to cut back on K-12 learning, then we’re not going to have a workforce that’s going to be attractive to companies that want to come here.”
State budget cuts are coming. That seems certain. We don’t envy our lawmakers the task of putting the state’s finances in order, even though it’s one they deserve for many years of runaway spending. This time, lawmakers need to consider other alternatives to education cuts – including an overdue revision of the state school funding formula – before sharpening their budget knives.
The people of Illinois can’t afford the eventual price of more educational cuts – a further-damaged state business climate, more unskilled and idled workers, and high-priced strategies to deal with increases in crimes and social problems.
So, don’t cut education funding because that would be really bad for the state, except for Chicago, which obviously gets way too much money, so cuts there won’t hurt anything or anyone no matter what. There will be no “increases in crimes and social problems” if Chicago school dollars are cut. No impact on the business climate. No additional unskilled and idled workers.
That’s the ticket.
* Meanwhile, in the real world, Mark Brown writes about Fenger High School principal Elizabeth Dozier, who has emerged as the only real hero so far in CNN’s “Chicagoland” series…
To those of us who have trekked down to Roseland in recent years to witness the successes Dozier and her team have achieved at Fenger, the national attention is well deserved. That’s why I returned to Fenger this week to interview her.
She seemed wearier than her bubbly norm, most likely because she was fighting a cold that reduced her voice to a hoarse whisper.
But this also is a difficult period at Fenger, perhaps the toughest since Dozier’s first year in 2009 when, just weeks into the start of classes, student Derrion Albert was beaten to death on his way home from school.
That also was the first year Fenger received a $1.6 million annual federal grant that provided enough resources not only to help restore order but to give students a fighting chance at success.
Now, it’s Fenger’s first year without the federal money, and coupled with other CPS cuts, there’s a strain Dozier doesn’t try to hide.
“It stresses the building out. I think everyone is feeling it this year,” said Dozier, who has tried to minimize the impact on students by doubling up duties for faculty and staff.
But as everyone learns who tries to do more with less, there are limits. An average class size of 20 has jumped to 30, a huge difference for a student body that needs help with so much more than understanding the homework.
Yeah, so go ahead and cut Fenger’s state money even further. I’m sure it won’t do any harm whatsoever.