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The hollowing-out of state government

Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018 - Posted by Rich Miller

* The conclusion of Ralph Martire’s latest op-ed

The bottom line: inadequate capacity on the front-end results in inadequate outcomes on the back-end. Period.

Want proof? Start with higher education, for which state funding has declined by over 51 percent in real, inflation-adjusted terms since fiscal year 2000. In response, tuition at public colleges and universities in Illinois over that sequence has increased at a rate that’s 62.6 percent greater than the national average. So it should come as no surprise that over the last decade enrollment in public institutions of higher learning has declined by 8.1 percent in Illinois, despite growing by 7.7 percent nationally.

Then there’s K-12 education — which is underfunded in Illinois by some $7 billion from what the evidence indicates is needed for every child to receive the type of educational experience that translates to academic success. That shortfall in education funding means the vast majority of Illinois school districts — 83 percent, according to the State Board of Education — lack adequate fiscal capacity to educate the children they serve. Given this significant lack of capacity on the front-end, one would expect inadequate student achievement outcomes on the back-end, which there are. For instance, just 37 percent of Illinois students met or exceeded the state’s standard for achievement on the most recent PARCC exams covering English Language Arts, meaning 63 percent didn’t.

I could go on, but there really aren’t any counter factuals. No matter how you slice it, the lack of an appropriate level of public sector investment in services on the front-end consistently generates less than desirable outcomes on the back-end. Which brings us to the biggest challenge facing Governor-elect Pritzker: the political process itself. In fact, the primary reason Illinois state finances are so shaky today is that designing sound fiscal policy requires long-term thinking — something political processes are poorly equipped to support.

That’s because political processes focus on short-term objectives, be it winning an upcoming election or getting through a current year’s budget negotiation. Rewards that are realized in the long-term, particularly if associated with imposition of short-term costs, are anathema to a process designed for generating an immediate advantage. Governor Rauner never found a way to overcome the myopic focus of the political process. Let’s hope Governor-elect Pritzker does.

       

34 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:20 am:

    It’s going to be a long slog with incremental progress at best. But that’s what’s necessary.

    Hopefully, the new guy will focus on the core responsibilities, and not just go for short-term press pops with shiny new things.


  2. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:29 am:

    Counter factuals?

    Can anyone argue the resources are being spent efficiently, directed primarily to the classroom instead of to bloated administrators and too many school districts?

    Even wealthy districts like Hinsdale have rejected 160 million dollar referendums and are now threatening elimination of football and swim teams to balance budgets.


  3. - Jocko - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:30 am:

    David Simon (from The Wire) once said “We have a political culture that everyone plants annuals…pretty flowers that come up the next spring. What we need is a political culture where somebody plants an olive tree, which doesn’t bear fruit for seven years.”


  4. - NeverPoliticallyCorrect - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:34 am:

    Ralph and I are both school board member but I would suggest there are counter factuals with regard to school funding at the PreK-12 level. First not all schools are doing this poorly, Second, there are other factors that influence school outcomes, items such as family background including educational attainment. Level so immigrants also play into this. Not that immigrant kids can’t and don’t learn, they do-often with greater effectiveness than native born students. Just that they are often starting at a different place. IMHO, the issue with education, in many situations, is related more to state micromanangment of how schools spend their funds and what we have to teach. I will agree Rauner didn’t help, but he was just another one in a long line of ineffective and over-reaching state administrations. The best thing the state could do is eliminate the methodology used for school budgets, provide some capital funding capacity for districts that do need to upgrade facilities, make a long lasting decision on how the state wants to evaluate academic achievement, and recognize we don’t live in Lake Wobegon, not all kids will be above average.


  5. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:34 am:

    ===In response, tuition at public colleges and universities in Illinois over that sequence has increased at a rate that’s 62.6 percent greater than the national average. So it should come as no surprise that over the last decade enrollment in public institutions of higher learning has declined by 8.1 percent in Illinois, despite growing by 7.7 percent nationally.===

    This can’t and won’t be fixed overnight and student and parev
    parents saw during the Rauner budget hostage taking that 1) the cost of Illinois schools isn’t worth going, 2) the universities themselves were focusing on staying afloat not looking forward.

    It will be a decade at least, for reputation, funding, and sound structural footing, for all of higher education in Illinois to feel they’ve “turned a corner” to be fiercely competitive and actually *be* fiercely competitive.

    Gov-Elect Pritzker will face incredibly huge challenger in higher education, that monies as a sole solution won’t cut it… but Rauner refusing to fully fund higher education for 3 years made a terrible situation far worse, and Pritzker must recognize a turnaround must begin now.


  6. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:36 am:

    Rauner had some severe myopia of his own, too.


  7. - Lucky Pierre - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:37 am:

    Why do huge bipartisan majorities support term limits?

    Because the political process focuses on short term objectives like getting re-elected.

    Politicians like Rahm Emmanuel come up with great plans to fix government spending on their way out the door.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:37 am:

    ===Can anyone argue the resources are being spent efficiently, directed primarily to the classroom instead of to bloated administrators and too many school districts?

    Even wealthy districts like Hinsdale have rejected 160 million dollar referendums and are now threatening elimination of football and swim teams to balance budgets.===

    Prevailing wage and collective bargaining elimination for property tax relief was the Rauner solution. It wasn’t workable.

    The reality for property tax relief, proper school funding at levels that fulfill missions, and getting 60 and 30 (or 71 and 36 if needed) to make it work is where Rauner failed and the charge of Pritzker. Tall order, that’s for sure.


  9. - El Conquistador - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:38 am:

    Raunerism failed spectacularly. Unfortunately, there are still ILGOPers that believe that the only way fix something is to break it more…

    Time to educate the public on the fact that they have been under taxed and over served for decades. This is the underlying cause of all the State’s woes. Period.


  10. - Steve - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:42 am:

    - El Conquistador -

    Under taxed? What a hoot….


  11. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:49 am:

    “state micromanangment of how schools spend their funds”
    “directed primarily to the classroom instead of to bloated administrators”

    I think you guys need to pick a lane. Does the State direct how the money is spent or not?


  12. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:50 am:

    -Can anyone argue the resources are being spent efficiently, directed primarily to the classroom instead of to bloated administrators and too many school districts?-

    Yes, I can. District 7 Edwardsville/Glen Carbon have been open, transparent, and proactive with their finances. Because of that we voted in a tax increase to save the excellent education of our children. We did vote down the increase to be devoted to educational buildings and infrastructure (computers, desks etc). This is direct evidence of 1) the open transparency of the district 2) high voter/citizen engagement 3)an understanding that state funding is unreliable and that to preserve sports, orchestra, foreign language, etc. we’ve got to chip in more as a community. We did and our programs and educational results show.
    And yes, my property taxes are really high.
    It hurts especially this time of year (two of the 4 payments hit in the 4th quarter)
    But I have been very very very pleased with my daughters education at Edwardsville High School, actually with elementary school on up.
    But we’re a wealthy community that values education. There’s a reason why SIUE is doing so well. It’s our crown jewel.


  13. - RNUG - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 9:52 am:

    == Under taxed? What a hoot…. ==

    They were undertaxed. Otherwise the State wouldn’t have had to come up with the Edgar ramp that formalized making less than actuarially calculated payments into the pension systems. The same could be said for multiple other State programs … DCFS (as discussed the other day), DNR (as discussed late month) … the list just goes on.


  14. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:05 am:

    –Why do huge bipartisan majorities support term limits?

    Because the political process focuses on short term objectives like getting re-elected. –

    How does telling legislators that they have no chance at all of holding the same office in 8 or 10 years promote long term thinking?

    Just answer the question.


  15. - low level - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:05 am:

    LP- “Rahm coming up w great plans on his way out the door”
    Really? Like the $10B pension obligation bond that has faulty assumptions esp in a declining equities market? The constitutional amendment that has no chance of passage and even if it did would be struck down by a federal court in all likely hood (pensions are a contract)

    In fact term limits are unnecessarry and provide less incentive to think long term as the limited legislator is even more deposed to do short term fix so he isnt defeated in his already linited time.

    All that said, if you think Rahm borrowing more is a good argument for term linits you probably need to look someplace else


  16. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:07 am:

    ===Why do huge bipartisan majorities support term limits?===

    Bruce Rauner got term limited… its called an election.

    An election works… rooting out “bad” elected officials.


  17. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:08 am:

    ==Why do huge bipartisan majorities support term limits?==

    And that addresses this issue how?


  18. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:11 am:

    “== Under taxed? What a hoot…. ==” Second verse, same as the first. You feel there’s a spending problem and not a revenue problem? Fine, tell us what you would cut.


  19. - El Conquistador - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:30 am:

    I was referring only to state taxes; not local taxes - home rule sales tax add ons, property taxes, etc. First, you have to realize that local taxes have risen to meet needs not met by inadequate state revenues. Then you have to realize that the state kept meeting increasing demands for service by skipping pension payments, borrowing, etc.

    The reality is that the 2.0, 2.5 and 3.0% tax rates of the 80s, 90’s and 2000’s were wholly inadequate to fund state services.

    It’s time to to pay for dinner and drinks you had decades ago. If people payed attention and participated in government rather than only whine when revenues are needed, much of this could’ve been avoided.


  20. - Thomas Paine - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:37 am:

    === Why do huge bipartisan majorities support term limits? ===

    For the same reason huge bipartisan majorities supported the cutback amendment, which concentrated power in the hands of legislative leaders and big donors.

    Huge bipartisan majorities do not hold political science degrees. Huge bipartisan majorities also support cutting taxes while increasing spending on nearly everything.

    Ask yourself why “Huge bipartisan majorities” support term limits yet tend to re-elect incumbent legislators overwhelmingly. How many of the downstate GOP voters who say we need term limits have been voting for John Shimkus every two years for the last 22 years? How many Lincoln Park liberals who say we need term limits have been voting for Feigenholtz for 24 years?

    Martire is right about the hollowing out of state government. I would add and emphasize that spending 60% of what you need to spend to get successful outcomes in public education is used by Republicans to claim that the 60 percent you do spend is a waste, and that government is a failure.

    We need to set priorities, and make sure that the things that we do fund are funded to a level where they will succeed. And come to grips with the fact that means that some worthy programs, no matter how worthy, will get $0 moving forward.

    Is Hynes gonna run GOMB for Pritzker?


  21. - TinyDancer(FKASue) - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:38 am:

    =In fact term limits are unnecessarry…=

    Exactly.
    What is necessary is campaign contribution limits and gerrymandering limits.
    Take private money out of the electoral process and draw unbiased maps that accurately reflect the electorate and that will enable voters to vote in the good and vote out the bad.
    Great leaders are a rarity. When one comes along, they should not be arbitrarily forced out.


  22. - A 400lb. Guy on a bed - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 10:52 am:

    =tell us where you would cut=

    Mental health?
    Highways?
    State police?


  23. - lake county democrat - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 11:04 am:

    Why are political insiders so against something the overwhelming majority of voters want? To the point they won’t even allow the issue to be voted on?

    Not just term limits. Ending gerrymandering is another (oh, they mouth the words that they’re against it at the same time they say it doesn’t really matter and don’t do anything to bring it about).


  24. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 11:09 am:

    The popularity doesn’t make it good…


  25. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    ===Why are political insiders so against something the overwhelming majority of voters want? ===

    The answer is pretty simple. The overwhelming majority say they want term limits, but when it comes time to vote for candidates the issue is generally quite low on their priority lists.

    Scream all you want, but the issue doesn’t move numbers in enough districts to matter. If it did, we’d have them.


  26. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 11:16 am:

    Now, let’s get back to the topic at hand instead of this sophomoric debate.


  27. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 11:30 am:

    ===Northeastern IL, Chicago State, Governors State, UIS, and 2 of either NIU, SIU-C, WIU, or EIU===

    So, Chicago loses 2 schools, suburbs lose one… Springfield loses an institution… DeKalb, Carbondale, Macomb, and Charleston… 2 lose their economic engines.

    Wonder why no one will say to do that, let alone actively close those universities.

    Wonder why Rauner tried… passively.

    Hmm. I wonder.


  28. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 12:09 pm:

    Wonder why? Because elected officials seem to lack a backbone. Because elected officials aren’t worried about what their constituents want, they worry about preserving their jobs. Because they think they are of a higher understanding of the problems and “know best”. Because they say one thing, never intending to really mean it, and then do the opposite. Because…….


  29. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 12:18 pm:

    ===Because elected officials seem to lack a backbone.===

    … to tell region(s) “we’re closing one of the biggest economic engines in the region”. Yeah. That’s not gonna fly because people losing jobs never flies.

    ===Because elected officials aren’t worried about what their constituents want, they worry about preserving their jobs. ===

    LOL… why? Because 100s if not 1,000s of jobs revolve around those institutions, let alone other businesses. You close schools purposely, you’re hurting these towns and regions. Your cynicism ignores that reality.

    ===Because they think they are of a higher understanding of the problems and “know best”. Because they say one thing, never intending to really mean it, and then do the opposite. ===

    “Because they think they are of a higher understanding of the problems and “know best”.”

    Causing massive unemployment and forcing other businesses to face the possibly of closure losing that institution… they know it’s best not to close them

    “Because they say one thing, never intending to really mean it, and then do the opposite.”

    Who said they were closing universities?

    LOL


  30. - City Zen - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 12:43 pm:

    ==Take private money out of the electoral process==

    You’re including trial lawyers and unions, no?


  31. - Skeptic - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 1:48 pm:

    “Mental health?
    Highways?
    State police?”

    Seriously?


  32. - Demoralized - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 3:56 pm:

    ==Because…….==

    You know how you fix that? You get a chance every 2, 4 or 6 years depending on the office.


  33. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 8:01 pm:

    Skeptic-where do you propose we cut?


  34. - A 400lb. Guy on a bed - Wednesday, Dec 19, 18 @ 8:52 pm:

    Silence.


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