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posted: 6/3/2017 2:00 PM

Editorial: School funding equity loses out to Chicago greed

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  • A deeply flawed school-reform bill passed the legislature, but is sure to be vetoed by Gov. Rauner.

    A deeply flawed school-reform bill passed the legislature, but is sure to be vetoed by Gov. Rauner.

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It is easy to get lost in the big picture of frustrations over the state legislature's inability yet again to produce a budget.

But doing so obscures a lot of meaningful little pictures that also are a part of Springfield's mosaic of many failures.

One of those little issues that is actually a huge one is school funding reform.

The Illinois Senate moved on that monumental question this session, but with such a transparently cynical move to turn it into an unjustified windfall for Chicago that it is sure to be vetoed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Chicago Democrats used the issue as a means to maneuver a bailout of the mismanaged Chicago Public Schools system that for years has wildly overspent while overpromising its powerful unions.

Unfortunately, many Democratic legislators from the suburbs shamefully went along.

There can be no doubt that there is indeed disparity in the resources schools throughout Illinois have to educate the state's children and future workforce.

There is little doubt also that financial resources play a large part in student performance. It's not the only factor, but it's a significant one.

And our Generations at Risk series two years ago demonstrated how powerfully interwoven income levels are with academic achievement.

So while there admittedly is much at stake in the school funding debate and we in the suburbs have cause for some anxiety that educational opportunity not be diminished in affluent areas here, we recognize the legitimate problem resource disparity presents.

Every child deserves an opportunity to benefit from a good education. And when a child is undereducated, it is not just the child who suffers; all of us suffer because we're all a part of the same society.

There's much more to say about that, but for now, let us just say that it's not just stuffed-shirt opinion writers recognizing this. Suburban legislators have shown a growing resolve to address the funding challenge, too.

Support for the recommendations of the Governor's School Funding Reform Commission is widespread.

But what lacks principled support is the blatant political money grab of Senate Bill 1, which would reform school funding all right, but would do so purely to reward the Chicago Public Schools system for its mismanagement.

Seven out of every 10 dollars created in that "reform" would go to those schools. There would be little left to increase equity for the state's many other under-resourced school systems. No wonder downstate Illinois views Chicago with anathema.

School funding reform is needed in Illinois. But it needs to be real reform and it needs to be fair. We heartily await the governor's veto.

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