Chicago Public Schools has filed a lawsuit on behalf of five minority families claiming the state has created a separate and unequal system of education funding in Illinois that violates the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Apparently no one has ever told Forrest Claypool, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, that the laws of the country do not apply in Illinois. This state’s school funding system discriminates against the poor, is racially biased and has been that way for at least 30 years.
And when it comes to school funding, even the Constitution of Illinois does not apply to Illinois.
Article X, Section 1, of the Illinois Constitution states: “A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities. The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free…The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”
Yet, the state for decades has failed to adequately fund the public schools in Illinois. It is not the primary source of education funding.
About 67 percent of all public school funding in this state comes from local property taxes, which are levied by local school districts. The state provides less than 30 percent of the funding, with the remaining few percentage points coming from the federal government.
As a result of this system, Illinois not only has the highest property taxes in the country, but its schools have the greatest disparity in funding between rich and poor school districts, according to a nationwide study.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, has repeatedly denounced the system of funding since taking office and assigned a school funding reform commission to change things.
State school superintendents in the past have called the state school funding formula unfair and unequal.
Most state legislators, Democrats and Republicans, would agree with that assessment.
And at least four panels assigned by governors to study the issue over 30 years have come to the same conclusion.
Yet, the Illinois Supreme Court has said that the Illinois school funding formula does not violate the law.
In 1990, 70 Illinois school districts sued the state claiming that the average tax base in the wealthiest 10 percent of elementary schools was more than 13 times the average of that in the 10 percent of the poorest schools. That sort of disparity, the lawsuit argued meant that wealthier districts were able to pay teachers higher salaries and impacted academic performance.
The case made its way to the Illinois Supreme Court, which in 1996 acknowledged the system of school funding was unwise, but said it was up to the state Legislature, not the court system, to solve the problem.
The Legislature, of course, has done nothing but make the problem worse.
Not only do minority school children suffer disproportionately, since they tend to live in the poorest communities, but those municipalities often suffer as well. Property taxes fall especially hard on business and industry, and they provide jobs and generate revenue to keep small towns operating.
Illinois has created a two-tiered education system of haves and have-nots by its overreliance on property taxes. It benefits the wealthy few over the poorer many. But it also is designed to pit school districts in the middle against the poor because state lawmakers have repeatedly failed to allocate enough money to fund all the schools adequately.
The courts, instead of stepping in, have repeatedly stepped aside. Elected officials lied repeatedly to the public about education funding, while squandering precious monetary resources on projects that benefitted campaign supporters, family members and friends.
Generations of school children have been cheated simply because they were born in the wrong place.
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