Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for May 3, 2007

From the Rockford Register Star...

Educators rally for school funding

By Kiyoshi Martinez

SPRINGFIELD — Educators from around the state waved signs, donned T-shirts and chanted slogans Wednesday at the Capitol for an increase in school funding. However, they refused to choose between two proposals sitting before the legislature.

What attendees made clear was their opinion that Illinois public schools are in a “crisis situation,” in need of a solution.

“There aren’t any Band-Aids left,” said Molly Phalen, president of the Rockford Education Association. “We need to do something drastic to deal with providing education funding that is fair and equitable around the state.

“Both political parties need to stop pointing fingers and figure out a long-term, sustainable funding plan for schools.”

Rally organizers from the Illinois Education Association didn’t tout any specific funding plan sitting in the General Assembly. One is Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s proposal for a gross receipts tax on Illinois businesses that do more than $2 million in annual revenue. The other, known as House Bill 750, would increase income taxes and expand the state sales tax for services.

IEA President Ken Swanson said not picking a side sent the right message to lawmakers.

“To support only one specific proposal risks saying to people who could support a different proposal, ‘Sorry, but we don’t want you at the table. We don’t want you being part of the solution,’” Swanson said.

While educators didn’t indicate a preference for where the money comes from, they offered areas in which additional funds could be used.

“Every year at this time of year we run out of paper,” said Christina Magee, an eighth-grade science teacher at Eisenhower Middle School in Rockford. “How can you run a school if you don’t have paper?”

Magee said she pays for most of her consumable supplies out of her own paycheck because there isn’t a budget to pay for them.

Steve Wilquet, who has been an electrician for Rockford schools for 12 years, said the district’s $76 million deferred maintenance backlog continues to grow as buildings age, forcing administrators and taxpayers into tough budget decisions.

“They have to make a choice if they put money into the facilities or into the teachers, and that’s a choice they shouldn’t have to make,” Wilquet said.

Josh Showers joined the rally in Springfield with a group of 42 students from Harlem and Hononegah High Schools. Showers, a Hononegah junior, said he’d like to see his school have more extracurricular classes to prepare for college and regain another hour in the school day that previously was cut.

Despite watching the legislature go year after year without a dramatic change in how schools are funded, John Seeber, who’s been an educator 30 years and teaches sixth grade at Belvidere Middle School, is optimistic for change.

“We have hopes,” Seeber said. “We don’t know what else to do other than come here in large numbers and impress upon them how serious the problem is.”