How 81st House candidates differ on school funding

Voters in the 81st state House District who are concerned about schools face a choice between candidates with different ideas on how to best provide a quality education.

Republican David Olsen says the best way to help schools is to relieve testing requirements and unfunded mandates that divert money from the classroom. Democrat Greg Hose says he would work to better support education by implementing a millionaire's tax and distributing the revenue to schools.

Olsen and Hose, both of Downers Grove, are competing in the Nov. 8 election to represent the 81st District, which includes all or parts of their hometown as well as Lisle, Naperville, Bolingbrook, Darien, Westmont and Woodridge.

Olsen and Hose both oppose a funding shift that would transfer money from schools within the 81st District and use it to "bail out" Chicago or downstate schools. But from there, their views differ.

Olsen, 28, who was appointed to the 81st District seat July 30 after the resignation of Republican Ron Sandack, says the state imposes too many testing mandates on schools - mandates that pull money from teachers, curriculum, fine arts and extracurricular activities. Relieving those requirements could help schools focus on student success, which he says "needs to be at the heart of what we do."

"That will give schools more money to be able to fund the important programs, the important teaching that will drive student results," he said.

Olsen was appointed in February to the College of DuPage board and serves as its vice chairman, but he does not plan to seek another term.

He said he's open to reforming the school funding formula with an evenhanded approach.

"I think in any revamp, we need to make sure to treat the different regions of the state fairly," he said, "and that we're not unfairly punishing successful districts or unfairly punishing districts that have been fiscally responsible."

Hose, a 35-year-old attorney and Downers Grove village commissioner, said the state needs to raise the bar on education funding for everyone by making budget cuts and using money from a millionaire's tax to boost school support.

"We need more progressivity to the tax structure in Illinois," he said.

With more money coming from the state to schools, local communities could be on the hook for less, relieving the burden on middle-class families.

"An expanded role for the state will lead to, hopefully, a reduction in reliance on property taxes," he said. "Whether you get a quality education in the state of Illinois should not depend upon the accident of where you were born ... We have a responsibility in the state to educate everyone."

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