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posted: 4/18/2014 5:01 AM

Maintain tax rate to keep schools strong

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Every child should have an excellent school. That's why I wholeheartedly support Gov. Pat Quinn's courageous plan to invest in education like never before.

My colleagues on the Illinois State Board of Education and I have long fought to increase funding for our pre-K through 12 students because a strong education system is critical to ensuring our state competes in the 21st century. Gov. Quinn is proposing an increase of $291 million in the classroom for fiscal year 2015 -- a significant improvement that will move us in the right direction.

More importantly, the governor's ambitious blueprint will invest more than $6 billion in the classroom over the next five years -- the largest investment in the classroom in Illinois history. This investment could be a game-changer for the Illinois economy. We need to support Illinois teachers so that they can prepare our students to be college and career ready once they graduate.

The State Board of Education staff was asked to inform the legislature what an additional $1 billion reduction to schools would mean since that is the level of funding they anticipate without the extension of the current income tax level. That kind of cut could translate into the reduction of more than 13,000 teachers, it could mean more than 80,000 students who now take a bus would be forced to find another way to school. All of the school districts we spoke with predicted reductions or elimination of extracurricular activities and academic course offerings, laying off personnel and increasing class sizes.

I believe if we do not maintain the current tax rate, it is not a pretty picture for our schools. We need to stand up and say, enough of the cuts. We cannot expect excellent schools while starving education. Our children and state deserve better.

Gery Chico

Chairman

Illinois State Board of Education

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