1/16/2004 4:49:00 PM Governor avoids the real issue
Whether it was ignorance, cowardice or political sleight of hand, Gov. Rod Blagojevich has managed to sidestep the real problem facing Illinois schools.
It’s hard to see the practical, in-the-classroom difference between the Department of Education he proposed Thursday and a State Board of Education. Either has the potential to be unaccountable, politically manipulated and ineffective — or accountable, independent and effective.
The more troubling part of Blagogevich’s address, though, was the manner in which he essentially blew off the issue we were waiting for him to address — the issue we’ve been waiting for every state-level leader to address for years:
The way Illinois schools are funded is wrong.
In a recent 72-page report, “The Condition of Public Education,” the ISBE outlined the problems that have put many Illinois schools in “structural deficit” — in the red with no way to get out — and created the nation’s worst inequity between rich and poor schools.
And it also outlined solutions — measures that, so far, those in Springfield have lacked the backbone to take.
One of those measures is reducing the reliance on property taxes to support education. There are different ways to do this, but politicians are terrified of most of them. And the difference between upstate and downstate interests in Springfield has ensured political gridlock whenever someone — like Gov. Jim Edgar, in the last serious attempt — tries to push the issue.
So the current governor has chosen to deal with the issue by hoping it will go away — or at least disappear in the storm of shuffled papers created by a new state agency.
We’ll see what happens. But for now, let’s leave it with a quote from the ISBE report:
“Addressing the state’s education funding problems may be the most difficult act of “collective will” ever undertaken by the state, local districts and taxpayers. But there is no doubt: ignoring the problem or continuing to make half-measures or piecemeal improvements will result in worse problems to come.”