Chicago public school students boycotted classes this week. Illinois State Senator James Meeks organized a student boycott of public schools during the first week of classes to draw attention to the state's school funding crisis. The boycott began on Tuesday and was expected to go all week, but ended Wednesday when Sen. Meeks announced that Governor Blagojevich agreed to meet with him to discuss possible solutions. The Governor refused to meet with Senator Meeks if the boycott was in effect. Hundreds of students were said to have participated and organizers coordinated teach-ins for students in lobbies of area companies like Boeing and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The state's current method of funding schools is based largely on property taxes and results in drastic and inequitable differences in per pupil spending across the state. This example cited by the Chicago Tribune shows the inherent inequity. New Trier Township spent nearly $17,000 per student in 2005-06 and Sunset Ridge spent about $16,000, while Chicago Public Schools spent an estimated $10,400 per student. For several years, Senator Meeks, Illinois Voices for Children, the Center on Tax and Budget Accountability, and ITEP have advocated reform of Illinois' tax structure in favor of less reliance on regressive property taxes and increased reliance on income taxes as a way to correct the flaws of the current school funding structure. Let's hope that this protest encourages the Governor to see beyond his "no new taxes" pledge and reform a terribly broken system.