By Gery Chico, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education
Every child should have an excellent school. That’s why I wholeheartedly support Governor Quinn’s courageous plan to invest in education like never before.
My colleagues on the Illinois State Board of Education and I have long fought to increase funding for our pre-K through 12 students, because a strong education system is critical to ensuring our state competes inÂ theÂ 21st century.
Governor Quinn is proposing an increase of $291 million in the classroom for FY15 – a significant improvement that will move us in the right direction.Â His budget will allow schools to begin making up the lost ground that resulted from decades of mismanagement that the Governor inherited.
But even more importantly, the Governor’s ambitious blueprint will invest more than $6 billion in the classroom over the next five years – the largest investment in the classroom in Illinois history.
This investmentÂ could beÂ a game-changer for the Illinois economy.Â A stateâ€™s most valuable resource is its people. We need to support Illinois teachers so that they can prepare our students to be college and career ready once they graduate. If we do that, businesses will want to stay and relocate here.
Just last month State Board of Education staff was asked to provide the legislatureÂ with information about what an additional $1 billion reduction to schools would mean since that is the level of funding they anticipate would be available without the extension of the current income tax level.Â That kind of cut could translate into the reduction of more than 13,000 teachers, it could mean more than 80,000 students who now take a bus would be forced to find another way to school, and it would mean more than doubling the number of school districts that are on our financial watch list.
We also reached out to districts and asked them what a reduction of this magnitude would mean.Â All of the districts we spoke with predicted reductions or elimination of extracurricular activities and academic course offerings,Â laying off personnel and increasing class sizes.
I believe if we do not maintain the current tax rate, it is not a pretty picture for our schools. We need to stand up and say, enough of the cuts. We cannot expect excellent schools while starving education. Our children and state deserve better.
Gery Chico, Chairman, Illinois State Board of Education