Oct 24, 2016

A NEW PATH: Better Schools

As a longtime school board member and the husband of a third-grade school teacher, I understand what a good education means for a child’s future. My experience has made me very aware of the shortcomings of Illinois and its educational system. Educating our youth is the single greatest thing we do together as a community – and we must do better.

There are two main issues, currently, within education:

  1. Funding Level
    1. Illinois is last – 50th out of 50 – in the country for state support for education.
    2. On average, the state only contributes 28% of dollars spent on schools in Illinois. The vast majority of the remaining spending is raised through local property taxes.
  2. Funding Equity
    1. Illinois is ranked 49th out of all states for funding equity – for every dollar we spend on a student of average means, we spend only 77 cents on a student in poverty.

Simply put, while school districts like the one I lead as school board president have to make tough decisions on whether to lay off staff to make ends meet, schools in suburban Chicago are debating how deep to build their Olympic sized swimming pools. This is unacceptable and is a good illustration of how Southern Illinois is getting left behind because of actions from career politicians in Springfield.

A NEW PATH

More Funding

This one isn’t rocket science. If Illinois wants to succeed in the future, we must provide the best quality education possible. We can’t do that if we are last in the country in supporting our schools. A budget is simply a list of priorities – and as your State Representative I will fight to make school funding our top priority and work to increase it every year I’m in office.

Fair Funding

Every new dollar of increased state education spending should be prioritized towards poor and rural school districts like many found in the 117th district and Southern Illinois. Just because a certain area has more property tax wealth does not mean the children growing up there deserve a better education and more opportunities than my two grandsons in Benton. A child’s zip code should not determine their quality of educational opportunities.

Building the Next Generation of Tradesmen

We need to do away with the idea that all students should go to a four-year college. The demand for individuals with technical skills and the certification to be a welder, electrician or mechanic is greater than the supply. These are good paying jobs that you can raise a family on and they don’t require a four-year degree. With a good trades program, a high school student can be close to technically certified for a steady career by the time they graduate. What if we brought together stakeholders from area high schools, community colleges and local employers to establish a regional technical training program or school for high school students? It’s worth a thought.