Suburbs should not have to pay Chicago’s spending shortfalls
SW Newspaper Group Feb. 23, 2017
By Ray Hanania
Don’t waste your time trying to figure out how Illinois divides the property taxes it collects to support local schools and the sales and income taxes it collects to subsidize Chicago’s bailout.
It’s too complicated, intentionally. The truth is no one wants you to understand. If you did, you might get upset. Most of your hard earned dollars go to help someone else, not you.
Most taxes collected in Illinois fund schools in Cook County, mainly in Chicago. Downstate gets only a small portion of that money.
The system is so complicated no one can accurately explain how it works. Over the years, they have been patching together funding mainly in response not to true “need,” but based on who has the most political clout and who screams the loudest.
The tragedy is Illinois is in a Budget Holocaust.
The confused system allows districts like the Chicago Public Schools to demand and take more money. Chicago’s schools are a sinkhole of failure.
Here are facts we know. The richer a community, the better their schools. It’s not about funding. It has to do with the involvement of parents.
The more economically strapped a family is, the less time parents can spend with their children.
That’s why 18 of the state’s top 20 best school districts are located in the north and northwest suburbs, according to Niche.com.
The top 10 are Vernon Hills SD 128, New Trier Township HSD 203, Barrington Community Unit SD 220, Hinsdale Township HSD 86, Glenbrook HSD 225, Naperville Community Unit SD 203, Indian Prairie Community Unit SD 204 (Aurora), Niles Township Community HSD 219, and Township HSD 214 in Arlington Heights.
Of the next 10 best school districts, only two are not from the north or northwest suburbs of Chicago: Dunlap Community Unit SD 323 in Peoria and Orland Park’s Consolidated HSD 230 in Orland Park.
The Chicago Public Schools are not even in competition.
That might explain why Chicago has the worst crime rate in Illinois. If Chicago’s schools were doing better, maybe Chicago would have less crime?
Chicago’s schools are a never-ending abyss of wasteful spending. Last year, the state gave Chicago’s schools $600 million. Most of the money, nearly $455 million, didn’t go for better education. It went to the pension debt for teachers and administrators.
Orland Park is a good example of a community in which the residents work hard, earn good wages, and pay more than their fair share of property taxes.
Property taxes there have double over the past 20 years, mainly because of increased demands from the state. Of the $6,000 paid last year on a typical home, nearly 70 percent went to fund local schools.
In other words, residents in Orland Park want better schools and they are willing to pay for it. In fact, the average Chicago property tax is only $3,600, far less than Orland Park, and yet most Chicago homes cost more than suburban homes.
Chicago schools want more from the state, but they don’t want their residents to pay that increased difference.
According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, Cook County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, based on counties, yet the hardest hit counties are downstate.
Illinois collects some $70 billion a year in revenues, most of which goes for healthcare and social services. Imagine, Illinois spends nearly half of its revenue on healthcare and our healthcare system is so bad. Yikes!
We’re not even factoring in the money from the Illinois Lottery that’s also supposed to go to the schools.
Illinois also created a special General State Aid that today is about $4.8 billion that is used to fund school districts that are in “need.”
The only way to change this mess is to start from scratch. End all the special subsidies, special grants, and the GSA, and start the budget process from Zero.
That means every government agency and every school district should be forced to justify their spending. If they can’t, they should start cutting spending. Or, residents there can pay more property taxes.
Taking from your neighbors isn’t right.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and author who covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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