July 08, 2005


Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has finally "balanced" his state's budget this year. It has come at a high cost, however. He and the legislature have dramatically deferred payments on the public employees' pention plan. They have also reduced the benefits of future retirees and changed the way that teachers and school administrators are paid, shifting more of the costs back onto the school districts, as opposed to taking care of it on the state level. The move specifically targets teacher raises that are beyond 6%. Read all about it here (the teacher part is 3/4 of the way down).

My concern is that this will make it even more difficult for school districts with smaller property tax bases to retain their best teachers. Illinois already has major inequity in its education funding system. Only 36% of expenses are paid for on the state level, which is well below the national average. The result is a disparity in per-pupil spending that, as of '01, ranged from $4,340 to $18,193. There are probably a lot of different possible solutions for fixing this problem that are worth discussing. Pushing more of the responsibility for funding teachers down to the local level isn't one of them.

I'm also concerned, as we're seeing on the federal level, that any time politicians mortgage a program and defer payments to future generations, all the while increasing the bill through interest, it makes it more likely that such a program will be cut. What a shame, and a rip off, it would be for the public employees in Illinois to find themselves in a United Airlines type of situation in a years down the line.


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