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Poll has mixed results for education funding advocates

Monday, Aug 28, 2006

The full poll and some crosstabs are in the subscribers-only section. Here’s a Southtown article on the poll that is to be released today.

Illinois voters say education funding is the leading issue in the race for governor, but only a slim majority are willing to pay more taxes to support low-income schools, according to a poll released today by Speak Out for Illinois Schools, a coalition of education and community organizations.

Forty-four percent of Illinois voters said education was the top issue in the November election, over issues like job creation, government waste and health care.

And nearly two-thirds of voters want to see an increase in the state share of funding for public education, compared to 24 percent who think it should remain at the same level.

But voters are split over whether they want to part with more of their hard-earned cash to fund education.

Just more than half are willing to pay more taxes to increase funding for low-income school districts. Samantha Anderson of Communities for Quality Education is optimistic about that 51 percent.

Funding for low-income schools was the only expense a majority of voters were willing to pay with a tax increase, the poll shows. Teacher training, school construction and programs for wayward youth, for example, garnered just 30 percent in favor of higher taxes.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

23 Comments
  1. - Cassandra - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 8:57 am:

    Samantha shouldn’t be too optimistic. Neither should politicians pushing a tax swap. 49/51 is hardly a mandate for a sweeping change in the way low-income school districts are funded. And with these percentages, assuming, of course, that they mean anything at all, any politicians pushing an income tax increase would be taking a huge risk.

    Perhaps a better question would be, for residents of school districts with per pupil funding above a certain level, would you support higher state funding for low income school districts if this meant your district would lose
    state monies.

    I don’t think too many taxpayers are willing to go that far.


  2. - Reality Check - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 9:49 am:

    In a statewide poll, more than half of respondents favor paying increased income or sales taxes in return for more education spending.

    That’s big news.

    Sgoes up to 55% when school funding is paired with property tax relief, as in the most popular legislative proposal.

    That’s even bigger news. It means people recognize that the state’s reliance on property taxes to fund education has to end.

    Then consider the results in context: The elected official with the biggest bully pulpit has been aggressively opposed to these proposals for four solid years. Yet a very solid majority still supports them.

    Imagine where those numbers would be if a strong leader advocated the position instead of trying to poison the well against it. I think it’s reasonable to assume support of 65% or higher.

    Or think of it this way: The concept of paying higher income or sales taxes in return for better education funding is more popular than any candidate for governor.


  3. - spartacus - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 10:00 am:

    In the Capitol Fax, it said that voters, by a margin of 55%-41% favored the icome tax increase with a property tax swap and increased funding for education. That’s exactly what SB 750 would have done. That’s not a toss up%, that’s a clear majority. I wish Topinka led Blago by this margin!


  4. - VanillaMan - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 10:17 am:

    The problem we face regarding public education is not about a lack of money. It is a lack of leadership to tackle the sacred cows keeping public education in the 19th Century.

    Until someone has the political courage to ask the right questions and take on these entrenched special interest groups, expect the extortion to continue.

    New Jersey has reached the point where school taxes are driving the state into financial ruin; people are moving out, businesses are relocating, perpetuating this cycle of failure.

    Switching from property taxes to something else is little more than justifying new funding sources for a broken system.

    We will continue to see alternative schools grow in response to public school failure. It appears that instead of reforming our public education system, voters will merely avoid it. There is coming a day when enough children will not depend on public schools to justify the massive taxes spent on it. Then voters will demand a change.

    Until then, expect to see politicians scurry around promising money we don’t have to schools that do not educate.


  5. - Gus Frerotte's Clipboard - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 10:49 am:

    I don’t agree with Vanilla Man about the state of public education, but Spartacus, we had this whole discussion the other day — that’s not what HB 750 would have done. HB 750 would have substantially increased the overall tax burden on middle-class families, increased education funding, and significantly reduced the property tax burden on businesses, particularly in south Cook County. I do believe that there’s a tax increase out there that could command a veto-proof majority in both chambers, but right now I don’t know if anybody’s really looking for that, and it certainly isn’t HB 750.


  6. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 11:16 am:

    I guess this shows the triumph of misinformation provided to the public on school spending versus reality.

    A lot of the response is based on how the question is asked.

    For example, the “low income” question could be put this way:

    Would you support raising your state income taxes by 67% to further subsidize a “low income” school district so that it can maintain an average teacher salary of over $81,000 for 10 months of work? (Ref www.isbe.net for Thornton HS district 205)?

    Would you support raising your state income taxes by 67% to further subsidize a district with the 40% “low income” students (the state average) which provides retirement bonuses so that employees can retire on pensions over $75,000 per year at age 55?

    Do you support ending teacher tenure job protection for low performing senior staff in Illinois “low income” public schools, so that more qualified staff may be hired to educate our children?

    Do you support requiring “low income” school Boards to have a secured source of funding for staff contracts before approving those contracts, in order to prevent student programs from being put at risk due to deficit spending?

    What do you think the response to this poll would be? Using the “low income” hook biases questions just as badly as the ones I’ve presented.

    The problem is that heinous legislation such as HB750 isn’t targeted just at “low income” schools. It would raise the foundation level which would also increase flat grants to even the most expensive ond overpriced schools.

    Just about everyone would favor providing “adequate” funds for educating “low income” kids. The problem is that the bureaucracy saps the resources without delivering effective value for the expenditures.

    Most people don’t know that Illinois ranks ninth in the nation in spending per pupil, they think we’re “49th” based on misinformation.

    Most people think that our teachers are “underpaid”, yet our instructional salaries rank third among states in the nation according to the NEA 2005 Rankings.

    Education quality and funding in Illinois is clearly dysfunctinal, but effective solutions will never be achieved until ALL aspects of spending and funding equations are examined, not just the ones the unions and educrats want on the table.


  7. - Mr. Luxury Yacht - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 12:07 pm:

    OK, Rich, I tried posting a comment - no bad words or anything like that - and twice now it’s bounced back with “Already said that!” - what’s the deal? I know it’s not because of any editorial direction, maybe a hosting malfunction?


  8. - Anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 12:52 pm:

    Apparently, the public has figured out that overrelying on property taxes to fund schools is not fair to poor districts or to property owners.

    How long will it take legislators?

    Only one party is listening and promising to pass something like HB 750 to more fairly fund low income schools…and that party is not the Democrats or Republicans.


  9. - Bill - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 12:54 pm:

    To quote one of Bob’s favorite politicians, “Theeeeeere you go again.”
    Your propensity to spew out false figures and outright lies is one of the reasons that you will never be elected to anything.


  10. - grand old partisan - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 1:37 pm:

    To me, this is good news for Topinka. For her, it couldn’t get any better than making this election a choice between selling a long-term asset for a short term profit and increasing the revenue generating ability of another long-term asset.

    Selling the lottery is a temporary solution that will guarantee we have the same problem in another 20 years. Topinka’s plan alienates the current crunch without a drop-off in the future. Explained in those terms, which are as honest as they are easy to understand, Topinka could ride the wave education funding concern into the Mansion easily.


  11. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 1:38 pm:

    Obstreporous Bill:

    Here’s my sources:

    www.nea.org/edstats/images/05rankings.pdf

    Page 39 0f 129-Table C-18 Instructional Salaries by State

    page 41 of 129 Table C-22 Instructional Salary increase by state

    Page 75 of 129, Table H-17 Spending Per Pupil by state

    Feel free to check this out, bloggers.

    Note: The District of Columbia is included in this survey, so I adjusted the rankings to only include the states.

    This proves who the real liar is, “3 dollar” Bill!


  12. - Mr. Luxury Yacht - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 1:43 pm:

    VanillaMan and Bob make the lead in for the “let’s just kill off public education” argument without going the full nine innings. Perhaps because they know their team can’t hit major league pitching. It all sounds good a first but has long been discredited as yet another regressive policy from greedy Republicans.

    This country and its prosperity are due in significant measure to the proposition that a public system of education is a key to our liberty and to tapping into the energy and best ideas of all our citizenry. Not maybe, not sort of. If you think you have a better idea than a robust system of public education - open to all, regardless of creed or income - fine. Go make your own country. Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Madison et. al. made this one and they were a whole lot smarter about these and about the nature and best course for mankind than you or me.

    In the meantime, it startles me how big things get missed, such as:

    “When paying more is paired with property tax relief, more voters are enticed. Fifty-five percent of voters favored a proposal that would increase the state income tax — with half of the revenue going to schools and the other half going into their pockets via property tax relief. Support dropped to 54 percent when sales tax was swapped for income tax.”

    Plus ca change. Support “dropped” to 54? From 55? That’s statistically irrelevant. “Dropped” is steering the data. The characterization should have been on the order of “Remarkably, support remained at the same level regardless of whether additional tax was returned to the citizens or was used to keep funding other State programs.”

    To quote one of my favorite political philosophers (extra credit if you ID it):

    “Education is the silver bullet. Education is everything. We don’t need little changes. We need gigantic, monumental changes. Schools should be palaces. The competition for the best teachers should be fierce. They should be making six-figure salaries. Schools should be incredibly expensive for governments and absolutely free of charge to its citizens - just like national defense. That’s my position. I just haven’t figured out how to do it yet.”

    The job of the Democratic leadership in Springfield is to figure out how. 750 wasn’t a very good start but it was a start. We need a credible bill now that can get passed. That will require the Democratic leadership to act like, well, leaders. Time for President Jones and Speaker Madigan to let the word out that we need a real bill in the post-election Veto Session that knocks down dependence upon State property taxes for school funding in exchange for something the poll shows that 54% would support, i.e. as close to a revenue-neutral increase in State sales and/or income taxes. Remember, in this case as in so many others, the perfect is the enemy of the good. We need a bill.


  13. - Squideshi - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 2:25 pm:

    Once again, Rich Whitney holds the most popular position.


  14. - Mr. Luxury Yacht - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 4:53 pm:

    Well, um, no Squideshi.

    Mr. Whitney’s position is just the Third Coming of 750, which is a non-starter. There are real reasons why 750 didn’t make it, either time, and they’re not of the “‘Cause I Didn’t Introduce It” variety as you might expect.


  15. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 5:08 pm:

    MR Luxury Yacht:

    The quote is from Rob Lowe on the West Wing following a spirited argument against raising taxes for education.

    As far as the “nine inning” baseball reference, we’re the ones wanting to solve the problem, provide the quality of education for which we pay and our children deserve.

    The lefty solutions are simply throwing more money into a dysfunctional system and hoping it somehow does some good.

    We simply understand that there are structural impediments to providing quality public education in Illinois that throwing in tons of money won’t address. We think those impediments should be removed prior to wasting more resources without positive effect.

    You see, we student and taxpayer activists also believe that education is the “silver bullet” that can minimize poverty, create the well informed electorate that our Republic needs to survive, and become the instrument by which the US can also dominate the 21st Century.

    The difference between us is that we know the educational bureaucracy will steal every silver bullet we provide, leaving us only with blanks with which to defend our children.


  16. - PalosParkBob - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 5:09 pm:

    MR Luxury Yacht:

    The quote is from Rob Lowe on the West Wing following a spirited argument against raising taxes for education.

    As far as the “nine inning” baseball reference, we’re the ones wanting to solve the problem, provide the quality of education for which we pay and our children deserve.

    The lefty solutions are simply throwing more money into a dysfunctional system and hoping it somehow does some good.

    We simply understand that there are structural impediments to providing quality public education in Illinois that throwing in tons of money won’t address. We think those impediments should be removed prior to wasting more resources without positive effect.

    You see, we student and taxpayer activists also believe that education is the “silver bullet” that can minimize poverty, create the well informed electorate that our Republic needs to survive, and become the instrument by which the US can also dominate the 21st Century.

    The difference between us is that we know the educational bureaucracy will steal every silver bullet we provide, leaving us only with blanks with which to defend our children.

    We just want to keep he ammo dry and safe from enemies so that we may use it when necessary.


  17. - anonymous - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 7:32 pm:

    funny I was just talking property tax to my small fry yesterday. he asked me how much I pay to send him to school. I think the thought was that he’d be happy to save me the money. I told him that I was paying for his schooling before he was even around and that i’ll be paying for his kids schooling too through property taxes,even got into percentages I put the poor bugger to sleep. many people have problems w/it because once their kids are done–they aren’t seeing the benefits. I personally don’t have a problem w/the property tax system other than the fact that the distribution aspect is unfair. Don’t know the solution–texas tried the Robin Hood thing and it got shot down. I thought the best aspect of 750 was putting some teeth into the service tax. we’re going to a service economy–makes sense to me. I know their are certain services that would be a hardship on people to tax but really if you have the disposable income to pay for alot of the services people utilize then you should also have the wherewithall to pay a tax on said service.
    and–in terms of there being problems with schools that you can’t just throw money at–quite true although they need the money too. biggest problem is lack of parental involvement. always same people volunteering, same in every school. probably same in the home too w/homework etc. People want the bumper sticker on their car but they’re not willing to put in the time w/their kids.
    and–gasp dare I say it businesses could pay their fair share into the education system that they reap big benefits from. not meaning to be unfair here to business that already does–State Farm is a biggie that comes to mind–but many aren’t


  18. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 7:43 pm:

    PalosParkBob:

    Here’s a little education quiz for you:

    MATH:

    Q: If a bipartisan panel of experts has concluded that it takes a budget of $6400 in order to ensure that 2/3 of kids in a school system perform at grade level — before you even start taking into account special needs kids — but the state only provides $5400 per child, what percent of kids can we expect to perform at grade level?

    A: 55% (2/3 times 5400/6400)

    SOCIAL STUDIES:

    Q: According to Chicago teachers, what is the number one thing that they would like to see additional school funding go for?

    A) Across the board pay raises
    B) Ensuring the administrators provide them with the tools and disciplinary support they need to teach;
    C) Continuing education, so they can remain competent in their field of instruction;
    D) Class size reduction
    E) All but A

    A: If you said E, you are correct.

    GOVERNMENT:

    Q: Whose job is it to remove bad teachers from the classroom?

    A) The teacher’s union
    B) The principal
    C) The school superintendent
    D) The school board, or in Chicago, the Mayor
    E) All of the above but A

    A: E again.

    BUSINESS

    Q: Who claims that 57% of American manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill because they can’t find qualified workers to fill them?

    A: The National Association of Manufacturers

    Q: Who blamed the ongoing loss of manufacturing jobs on the underperformance of Illinois schools?

    A: The Illinois Manufacturers Association

    Q: Who blamed the high vacancy rate in Chicago’s downtown commercial properties on our over-reliance on local property taxes to fund education?

    A: The Building Owners and Manager’s Association

    No one is actually “throwing money” at schools, which you would know if you ever read the school code and the myriad of checks and balances and red tape the average school district has to go through just to get the paltry some it does receive from the state. But complain to me about how “throwing money at the problem” when the state finally does start providing schools with the subsistence level of funding every education expert for the past 20 years has agreed is needed. Then, we’ll talk.

    I’m not saying Thornton is the model for statewide school funding reform. But it sounds to me like you need to be talking to the voters who elect the Thornton School District. Why should we hold back property tax relief in every other part of the state just because you’re too lazy to get off your duff and run for school board? If thngs are as bad as you say, e-mail me and I’ll be happy to volunteer for your campaign.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us have got to move forward.

    P.S. the average salary for PS teachers in Illinois ranked 6th, not 3rd. But if you think the money is so great, and the job is so easy, I’d love to see you get up in front of the classroom. Not ONE person I’ve made that challenge to has taken me up on it. You could be first, Bob.


  19. - WWDMD - Monday, Aug 28, 06 @ 10:50 pm:

    thanks YDD… you are on point. First goal in 750 is not to “take away” from affluent schools but to “level up” poorer ones. second, sure you can remove waist, incentivise consolidation and put in place some really good reform measures, and you still will have a dispariy because the undeling structured is flawed. point to teachers saleries if you want, but compare the avg. teachers salery in thornton(205) with that of evanston (202)…

    thornton has lost funding due to the local ECONOMICS over the years. If the business tax base has decreased over the past decades (loss of steel industry and such in Harvery,Riverdale and surrounding communities). in turn,this has placed more burden on the homeowner. added to this the lack of increse in state aid. (54% to today’s 36%) So Bob give the full story, not the snipit.

    Education funding depends on property values. period. If there is something better, then put it to paper…or will we all settle for a casino?


  20. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 12:04 am:

    Dog,

    Well put. By the way, there aren’t many teachers retiring with $75,000 pensions where I live. Maybe, a few administrators, but it’s a rare teacher in rural Illinois who earns $75,000 a year, much less retire with that much.

    WWDMD,

    I agree 750 would be far preferable to gambling as a base of support for education, but as long as we have governors who pledge vetoes, that’s the best we’ll get.


  21. - PalosParkBob - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 9:03 am:

    Yellow Dog:
    Let me respond to each of your misstatements.

    First, regarding the “Non-Partisan” EFAB committee that came up with the notorious foundation level for public education, it’s a five person committee appointed by the Govenor made up of not one but TWO teacher union presidents, a former Democratic legislator who has served as a consultant to Chicago Public Schools, the executive Vice President of perhaps the most politically dependent bank in Chicago, and a Democratic Lawyer who chairs the committee. If you think this group’s goal results in a “fair and balanced” evaluation of how much it should cost to educate a student in Illinois, I’d like to have some of whatever you’re smoking.

    As far as claims that the teacher union’s main goal is not to fatten their pocket books, you are indeed naive.

    Practically every teacher union negotiation begins with lowering class size “for the children” but ends up being about how much the increase in salaries and benefits will be.

    “Poll talk” is just PR, reality happens at the negotiating table.

    As far as removing poor quality teachers, I’d refer you to a study performed by a downstate reporter who did an extensive study of this earlier in the year. He found out that it’s practically impossible to fire an incompetent tenured teacher. He found only a handful that were able to be removed in the last several years.

    This means either that Meeks and his fellow travellers were lying about the quantity of “unqualified” teachers in Illinois public education, or the system is practically immovable in reagrds to getting rid of recalcitrant dead wood.

    The reporter also found that the legal costs to remove an incomptetent, or even criminal, teacher, exceeds $100K. Most schools with large numbers of ineffective tenured teachers live with the problem, because they can’t afford to get rid of the worst and hire the best under current Illinois law.

    As far as manufacturers complaining that Illinois is doing a poor job of educating new workers, I couldn’t agree more. Considering that the last reported spending in Illinois was over $9,000 per student according tho the NEA, and the “foundation level” by the highly biased EFAB committee is $6,400, it proves that we are NOT getting the value we’re paying for as Illinois taxpayers. Thanks for making my point.

    As far as landlords complaining that real estate taxes are too high and are affecting occupancy rates, OF COURSE they’d take that position.

    I noticed you conveniently left out the point that lowering real estate taxes through fair compensation and benefits for staff could substantially reduce taxes. I’m all for that!

    As far as your admonitions regarding my activism and dedication to education, I’ll have you know I’ve run for school boards three times, and have become a major campaign target for the unions each time. In the last High School board election, the local teacher’s union gave an unprecendented $10,000 to my opponents to help beat me. They’ve also “vetoed” my participation in non-voting Education, Finance, Building and Service Committees. The IEA, preventing diversity of opinion whenever possible.

    As far leaving my six figure per year job to teach, I’ve done it. Because I have a Masters degree, over 100 semester hours of college science and 30 hours of math, I thought there might be a use for me in public education. I found out differently.

    I learned to teach at the college level, and for a year I was mentored by some of the best staff you could ever find. My nationally normed teacher evaluations rose from the 30th poercentile to the the 70th percentile in my final semester. While teaching college at nights, I did substitute teaching in the Southland at over 14 high schools, and quickly got a basis of comparison by whioh to form opinions and what works and what doesn’t in education.

    Following a year training as a teacher at the college level, I found that there were no opportunities for me in public education.

    You see, because I didn’t take courses in Political science (2), US History, “History and Philosophy of Public Education”, American Literature, and about a dozen other classes irrelevant to teaching high school science, the great state of Illinois deemed I was “unqualified” to teach sceince and math to disadvantaged children. Instead, they let teachers whose understanding of science and math was less than elementary provide their education, with predicatably poor results.

    Instead of working in public education as I wanted, I got a job teaching honors and conceptual physics at one of the most competitive private high schools in Illinois.

    After two years I left teaching to become an engineering manager for dozens of school renovation and addition projects for far less money than I could’ve earned managing refinery and power projects.

    I’ve paid my dues and walked the walk, Yellow Dog.

    How about you?

    By the way, I’ll be running for the school board again next spring. I’m sure the unions will be out in force against me, and any debate about reforming education.

    Can I still count on your support?


  22. - PalosParkBob - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 12:36 pm:

    Steve Schnorf:

    Regarding teacher salaries and benefits, I suggest you check out the Teacher Retirement System data found on www.thechampion.org. I’ll bet you’ll be amazed at how much you may have underestimated how much yoour school staff is REALLY making.


  23. - PalosParkBob - Tuesday, Aug 29, 06 @ 12:58 pm:

    WWDMD:

    The problem with Thornton, which is a microcosm of most low income, minority, corruption and union dominated systems, is not that outside funding was reduced, but that they grew their salaries, benefits and patronage much faster than any State or Federal revenue growth could sustain.

    sharon Voliva and her Board had tough choices to make; do they limit staff salary and benefit growth and allocate resources to give the students the tutoring and extra service they need, or do they let the unions increase salaries at such a rate that necessary and desirable programs for the kids are shut down.

    sharon Voliva and her bunch chose the latter.

    It wasn’t the State or the Feds.

    The simple fact is that they knew that property values were declining for a number of reasons, gangs, aging infrastructure, and governmental corruption.

    They knew they couldn’t afford to pay teachers $27K above state average, and they couldn’t afford to pay administrators $17K above state average, but they did it anyway.

    What’s happening at Thornton is what will happen to other such schools if we raise taxes and flood them with money without safeguards that the money won’t be grabbed by jackals without providing quality education to the children.

    that’s why HB750 and its onerous clones must never pass unless we put in protection of the new funding, and provide the tools for school boards to control employee costs and retention.


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