Guest View: Teachers union head backs Pritzker's 'fair tax'

  • Dan Montgomery

    Dan Montgomery

By Dan Montgomery
Illinois Federation of Teachers
Posted4/15/2019 1:00 AM

In my nearly 20 years of teaching English in a suburban Chicago high school, I had students from all backgrounds.

The vast majority came from lower income and working-class families because that's the majority of all Illinoisans.


My students' parents drove cabs, fought fires, cleaned hospitals, taught school, fixed roads, and worked in fast food restaurants.

When I think back to my classroom, I remember the joy of seeing students excel, but when a student's family struggled financially, believe me, it showed up in their performance.

That's why a solution to Illinois's fiscal challenges is so important to me and members of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Students and their families depend on the state to provide really good free public education, from pre-K through college. And those families should not -- cannot --- bear a heavy and unfair tax burden.

We have the opportunity to put Illinois on the path to success to properly fund education and lift the tax burden on working families. But, the ineffective leadership of the past administration left us with a $3.2 billion budget deficit, and we cannot create meaningful change until this crisis is addressed.

Governor J.B. Pritzker's fair tax plan is the first step. A fair tax will generate billions of dollars in much-needed revenue, money that can fund neighborhood public schools, colleges, and repair crumbling infrastructure.

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As IFT president, I've traveled our great state and seen firsthand the damage caused during the Bruce Rauner administration. I see how desperately we need the revenue a fair tax would bring.

Nothing is more important than investing in our students, from preschool to higher education, and everything in between. Every child in Illinois deserves a chance at a great education, and inequality in our education system has gotten increasingly worse.

Our underfunded education system has contributed to the mass exodus we've seen in recent years as families leave the state in search of a better education or cheaper college tuition.

And, our current tax system does not work for the middle and lower-income families who pay a disproportionate amount of their income in taxes every year. It's time we lift that burden and create a tax system that works for everyone, not just the wealthy.


Governor Pritzker's fair tax plan would generate the revenue our state desperately needs, all while ensuring working families don't pay more in income taxes. The plan raises taxes on the wealthiest Illinoisans, while ensuring 97 percent of Illinoisans see no income tax increase. Only those making more than $250,000 a year will pay more, with the highest increase going to those making more than one million dollars a year.

Simply put, a fair tax is the only way to dig us out of our budget hole. The alternatives would be to impose a 20 percent tax increase on everyone or drastically cut funding for our schools, colleges, and vital services.

That's something working families can't afford and won't accept.

It's time to for Illinois to fund the future we all deserve. It's time for a fair tax in Illinois.

Dan Montgomery, a former English teacher at Niles North High School, is president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, based in Westmont.

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