The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

April 10, 2014

A glimmer of promise

The Commercial-News

---- — An Illinois legislator — state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Staunton — finally appears to recognize a growing problem in the state that his fellow lawmakers apparently choose to ignore: Illinois schools face real financial problems.

Many school districts have seen their share of state funding reduced while lawmakers chose to put tax dollars to other uses. The same could be said, for the most part, about the state’s looming pension problem. Illinois legislators continue to prove their priority remains their own re-election — showing their worth to constituents by handing out millions in road work and other make-work projects — instead of concentrating on fixing the state’s schools and long-term financial well-being.

Manar’s proposal shifts school funding from property taxes to income taxes. Sound familiar? It should.

The late state Sen. Harry “Babe” Woodyard, R-Chrisman, and then state Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, pushed for such a change about two decades ago.

Everyone knew the school funding formula was faulty, but even then lawmakers could not muster the political courage to make changes.

Now they might not have much choice.

Area school districts face difficult choices created by the Legislature’s failure to address the issue and properly fund education. The loss of talented teachers, trained support staff and a reduction in curriculum will only hurt Illinois students.

Manar’s plan also puts Chicago in the same formula as other districts, a change also long past due.

The proposal passed one Senate committee and must pass many more hurdles before it will come anywhere close to being a law. But Manar at least has started the discussion on school funding. The future of Illinois — and its students — depend on crafting a better way to pay for edication.