The Chicago Tribune on Illinois Tax Reform


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The Chicago Tribune is shocked, shocked to find that the persistent inadequacy of Illinois state tax revenue is making school funding more inequitable. An August 1 article uses data from the State Board of Education to show that:
The difference between the highest- and lowest-spending districts was $19,361 per pupil in 2003-04, about $4,000 higher than the year before and the biggest school-spending gap in a decade...

This staggering gap exists, of course, because of disparities in property wealth between rich and poor school districts. The poorest districts have to apply much higher tax rates, and still get less revenue per pupil to spend on schools. Wealthier districts can levy low tax rates and get a lot more money per pupil. The result is that the quality of your kid's K-12 education varies dramatically depending on where in Illinois you happen to live.

The best way to counteract this basic inequity on local property tax bases is to use a different tax base-- for example, the state income tax-- to fund schools. But oops, the property-tax-for-income-tax swap that occupied lawmakers for much of the 2005 legislative session never got enacted, partially because of a very negative Tribune article a few months back on how the bill would affect Illinoisans.

As one observer characterizes it, the Tribune article "discovered, after massive research, that a plan to increase taxes to raise more money for the public schools would increase taxes."

So I guess that makes two Trib articles on tax and education policy within three months that ought to be subtitled "Duh."

Thanks to Dan Johnson-Weinberger for noting all this.

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