Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed budget for next fiscal year calls for $1.3
billion in education cuts, from pre-kindergarten through college.
However, Quinn is also pushing an income tax increase -- from 3
percent to 4 percent -- to raise an estimated $2.8 billion to avoid
the massive funding cuts and help plug the state's $13 billion
Officials estimate teacher and school employee layoffs
may reach 17,000 as local school districts brace for the drop in
state funding next year while wrestling with late state payments
During a statehouse news conference, Brent Clark, executive
director of the Illinois Association of School Administrators,
framed the amount of money owed schools as staggering.
"The $300 million that is owed to CPS (Chicago Public Schools) is
part of the $1.25 billion that is owed to all the school districts,"
Clark said. "So all the school districts are suffering in just a
scaled model of not receiving their payments on time."
Although teachers and social service providers on Wednesday
literally screamed for an income tax increase, the prospect is
unlikely during an election year coupled with a lingering recession.
But lobbyist Steve Preckwinkle of the Illinois Federation of
Teachers believes the increase can pass if legislative leaders allow
the measure to be considered.
"We don't think it's impossible to pass if the bill is called,"
Preckwinkle said. "Many elected officials want to do the right thing
before they leave here this spring. We hope they get the
opportunity. It'll be up to Speaker Madigan in terms of whether or
not that bill is called for a vote."
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Last year, Quinn's initiative calling for a larger
income tax increase passed the Illinois Senate but has yet to be
considered by the House, led by Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago.
Last year the House did vote on a different income tax proposal, but
lawmakers soundly defeated it.
Education advocates urged action -- now -- to save school
programs in the fall.
"Children are going to be hurting," Clark said. "There's still
time to fix this problem, and we need the officials with the power
to vote to do it."
Ken Swanson, president of the Illinois Education Association,
said the proposed cuts will shortchange students in the future.
"Children only get one chance at a full education through their
developmental years," Swanson said. "And if that is disrupted by
these Draconian cuts, that is a loss that can never be made up. "
Statehouse News; By JENNIFER WESSNER]