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Cut those guys over there!!!

Monday, Mar 17, 2014

* 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.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    The Fenger scenes are riveting. Those are real people fighting the good fight every day.

    I could care less how Rahm spins his way through the day.

  2. - Wensicia - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    It’s a shame so many districts have to rely on federal grants, when available. Our state sucks at providing needed funding for education.

  3. - From the 'Dale to HP - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 12:38 pm:

    “over-funded Chicago” (who pays for their own pensions which no one else in the state has to do but we’re ignoring/pretending this fact doesn’t exist because it totally ruins the “us vs them” narrative).

    Downstate should be uniting with Chicago, not fighting them.

  4. - olddog - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    One of your best, Rich.

    Brown’s column is pretty good, too. The budget cuts and “pressure from an influx of new charter schools” he mentions aren’t limited to Chicago.

  5. - thechampaignlife - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 12:59 pm:

    Best bet to make the funding more level without cuts is going to be new funding. That’s hard to come by and, even if you did find a new pot of money, try telling the schools already getting more that they won’t see any of that new revenue.

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:06 pm:

    As someone who has spent a lot of time at fenger and in the area around fenger if the turn around at the school has cost just 1.6 million a year extra it was money well worth it. This would be the way to spend money and make a differance. But alas,Quinn used 50 million in tax funds to buy his last election, no money left for programs that actually work.

  7. - Bobby Hill - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:07 pm:

    That’s interesting from the boys down south. I wonder if they’d be open to “other” cost saving suggestions. Last I checked, Murphysboro which is 500 students and Carbondale which is 1,000 students are literally miles apart. Would a 1,500 student school be suitable despite the several stoplight packed miles between the two schools…if it saved a few nickels?

  8. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:17 pm:

    Related to school funding issues…

    I hate that even when districts attempt to do something proactive to deal with the lack of funding and/or property tax increase fatigue, even that gets shot down or fought by special interests.

    McLean County has a sales tax for education facilities construction/repairs on the March ballot and this money could be greatly beneficial to the county’s smaller rural schools while well-funded Normal officials have said they would try to offset the additional money by reducing property taxes. Meanwhile, the local chamber of commerce opposes the sales tax. Fair enough. Let everyone in the county debate what’s best.

    But what is aggravating about this tax resolution is that Americans for Prosperity has decided to interfere in things and is even sending out robocalls against it. What is it to the Koch Brothers if McLean County voters decide to fund their local schools a different way or in a greater amount?

  9. - Mokenavince - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:33 pm:

    Downstate and suburban school districts, where at their best when they were giving huge raises to their superintendents. Of course they were getting the money from the State.

    They were juicing pensions to the same people, when the State was paying.

    Chicago has to pay from their own funds and get very little from the State.
    One more thing it was true at one time Fenger high
    was a terrible place to go to school. Thanks to people like MS. Dozier it’s changing. We need to encourage more people like her.

  10. - Downstater - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:37 pm:

    Why is it over the last few decades education spending has gone up, while achievement results have gone down?

  11. - Downstater - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 1:40 pm:

    Illinois consistently devotes approximately 27-28 percent total spending to K-12 education.[62]

    Fiscal Year

    Total Spending[63]

    Education Spending[64]

    Percent Education Spending

    2009 $123.1 billion $35.3 billion 28.6%
    2010 $129.7 billion $35.5 billion 27.3%
    2011 $127.7 billion $35.2 billion 27.5%
    2012 $125.4 billion $35.6 billion 28.3%

  12. - Exit 59 - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:03 pm:

    According to google maps the distance from Murphysboro HS to Carbondale HS is 11.8 miles. The Murphysboro district extends to Route 3. While the towns border each other, I’m not sure that’s the problem. Now, could Carbondale High School District and Carbondale Elementary district combine? Might save some money there.

    Also, I think the Southern Illusion is referring to some of the points that were made in the Republican Senate Caucus’s Report on school funding. The “free lunch” as Mr. Madigan calls it, doesn’t seem free to us Southern folk.

    Also, previous paragraphs of the editorial mentioned Higher Ed funding (SIU Carbondale) and the overall tone WAS quit cutting us. Keep closing our prisons, cut our universities and schools… what were you expecting?

    Hard to believe I’m defending The Southern but, inspired enough for my first post. Please be gentle.

  13. - steve schnorf - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:17 pm:

    Methinks the SI should also be editorializing for some form of continuation of the income tax increase,then

  14. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:30 pm:

    “Why is it over the last few decades education spending has gone up, while achievement results have gone down?”

    That’s completely false.

  15. - carbaby - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:35 pm:

    hisgirlfriday- I think because it would set some precedent in motion and that perhaps other communities would try the same thing if this would be successful. It goes against what they want- they don’t care where it is. I think about them meddling in the school board elections in North Carolina. They have a specific agenda they want everyone to follow.
    Downstater- there is not a simple answer to that question. Is the converse really the ultimate goal? There are many complex reasons for increased spending as there are many complex reasons for the achievement results. None of these are Illinois only issues/struggles.

  16. - the Patriot - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:45 pm:

    The simple fact is the democrat party has moved from the party of the working class to the party of the non working class. Look at proposed cuts and they are to the folks working. We spend so much on welfare and Medicaid that we have become a haven where people in other states who need government assistance flock here. I like helping, but if you don’t keep a few folks around to work and pay taxes eventually the thing goes belly up. It is called socialism and it has never worked anywhere in the history of the world.

    It is simple, Pat Quinn has a better chance of winning by keeping the welfare crowd in his corner than risking the unions rally behind the republican.

    Rauner creates another perfect storm for Quinn to keep screwing working class union members, but force them to re-elect him.

    If Rauner wins, this becomes the most interesting political dynamic of our time. The unions will be forced to spend 10s of millions to back a candidate a supermajority of their rank and file hate because he has screwed them so badly. Remember, the IEA said we can’t take a 10% cut proposed by Brady in state aid in 2010. They are over 15% and counting.

    You can’t create fiction like this.

  17. - sparky791 - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    Been an educator for 30+ years. Never been asked to do so much with so little. Morale is at an all-time low. Not saying throwing money at schools is solution. But now most schools are at deficit spending and have already made cuts that effect student learning. At some point something has to give. Also check universities in Illinois. I know teacher ed. program in some areas is barebones. Nobody in right mind wants to be teacher in Illinois. Rauner gets his way and makes everyone get 401k and no social security you will see people now in teaching leave in droves. This could get ugly.

  18. - Ken_in_Aurora - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:00 pm:

    I wish we could clone Ms. Dozier - she exemplifies everything that is right and good about the people who choose to teach our kids.

  19. - Stanislaus - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:09 pm:

    This is from the Illinois Policy Institute worship pets at Lee News. The opinion was included in the SI, Decatur HR and Bloomington Pantagraph. And the still want to tax cut to go away. They still want to blame illegal aliens for our budget problems.

  20. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:25 pm:

    ==I like helping, but if you don’t keep a few folks around to work and pay taxes eventually the thing goes belly up. It is called socialism and it has never worked anywhere in the history of the world.==

    Can we please stop with the tired national talking points? Thanks.

  21. - Cook County Commoner - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:26 pm:

    The argument that investing in education is an investment in Illinois is getting thin. The working age young people I know and who obtained college degrees are mostly working out of state. It’s not an investment that necessarily stays here, any more than retired teachers who move elsewhere with their pensions.
    Time to rethink the whole thing. Vouchers, charters and especially means testing of parents.

  22. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:31 pm:

    ==Remember, the IEA said we can’t take a 10% cut proposed by Brady in state aid in 2010. They are over 15% and counting.==

    Yeah, and the schools aren’t taking those cuts very well. That’s the point.

  23. - lake county democrat - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:35 pm:

    While Chicago does need the funding, it needs to be spent differently. There’s research that increased funding in a number of poor performing urban districts had no effect on outcomes. (This is one reason why Rahm’s longer school day initiative was tagicomic: not only is there scant evidence it does any good, it got turned into a “new gym/art teacher” pork project putting CPS in more debt and more pressure to close schools). If you gave me a choice between freezing the budget but changing the K-9 certification test (pass it with a high schooler’s knowledge, with 5 chances to pass) vs. increasing the budget 5%, I’d go with the former. I’d want to INCREASE my taxes to pay for a 5% boost in the budget if I knew it was going to research-backed initiatives.

  24. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:39 pm:

    ==means testing of parents==


  25. - Exit 59 - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:40 pm:

    Agree with Sparky… it could get real ugly. The old teachers will stay because they have no where else to go. The young will leave because they don’t have the time invested and are at low dollar end of salary schedule.

  26. - low level - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:45 pm:

    More Chicago bashing not based in facts. Oh well.

  27. - Demoralized - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 3:53 pm:

    @low level:

    There is a small kernel of truth in there. Chicago does get a block grant of education funding and they don’t have to provide the information to get their money that every other district has to supply. They may or may not be getting too much or too little. Either way the Chicago vs. the world argument isn’t helpful.

  28. - AnonymousOne - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 4:00 pm:

    Downstater at 1:37

    Haven’t worked in a school lately have you? When you went to school, did you have one-on-one aides for numerous students who attend classes with them throughout the day? Did you have English Language Learner classes and aides to help students who don’t speak English? Did you have pshychologists, social workers (probably did), physical therapists, occupational therapists, Speech therapists (probably did), free school lunch program, free breakfast programs (of course to those who qualify——but lots qualified back then, there just wasn’t anyone who cared, and no program to feed them). I’m absolutely sure I’ve left some professionals out of this list but when I went to school, there were a few administrators, couselors, speech therapist and lots and lots of teachers. These day the professionals who actually TEACH groups of kids might be in the minority of staffs after the number of aides and other professionals. So the dumping on teachers for taking up spending is really quite ignorant. Those who haven’t been inside a school and really spent time there to see what is going on——they need to. Lots of money is spent on a myriad of services (and meals) provided to students that have NOTHING to do with education. That is another column for Rich though.

  29. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 5:41 pm:

    Lots of money is spent on a myriad of services (and meals) provided to students that have NOTHING to do with education.

    You can’t learn well if you are starving. Also, NSLP started in 1946 under Truman and costs 10 billion per year while total ed spending is over 600 billion per year.

  30. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 5:48 pm:

    NSLP history

    These day the professionals who actually TEACH groups of kids might be in the minority of staffs after the number of aides and other professionals

    Completely false.

  31. - AnonymousOne - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 6:04 pm:

    The number of supplementary vs. teaching staff is larger in my neighborhood schools. I work in them. I never meant to imply that children should not be fed in schools! My information was provided so that people understand how much the role of “school” has changed over the decades. To think of schools as strictly informational places of learning is a thing of the past. Schools are HOME to so many kids. We ask a lot and expect maybe too much of the people who work in them and we expect them to take the place of a lot that should be provided in the home. Asking so much has often resulted in less than perfect results. Money is important if you are to provide not just leaning opportunites to kids. That’s all I meant. People like to link money to test performance as if that’s the sum total of what happens in schools. Those people can’t possibly be aware. Cut the funding, you are hurting a lot more than test scores. Sorry if my words seemed harsh.

  32. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 8:31 pm:

    Thanks to Precinct Captain for some facts among the dreck further up the page. “Non working” is a new code word, apparently.

  33. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Mar 17, 14 @ 10:14 pm:

    A1 - Is at least one of these supplemental staffers dedicated to teaching the basics of paragraphs?

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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