Illinois Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker is promising to send more money to schools at the same time he plans to fix the state’s more than $1 billion budget gap.
The governor-elect also backs a plan to set a statewide minimum teacher salary of $40,000 per year, which would drastically increase costs for struggling schools.
Pritzker announced his vision for revamping the state’s education system at Genevieve Melody STEM Elementary School in Chicago on Wednesday, flanked members of his new “Educational Success Committee” of 35 advisers he assembled to get the job done, WTTW reports.
Three of the four co-chairs who will head the committee are politicians or union bosses, folks many believe are responsible for the current mess.
They include Democrat Sen. Andy Manar, and Democrat Rep. Chris Welch, along with Illinois Education Association president Kathi Griffin. Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools – arguably the most dysfunctional, wasteful and ineffective school district in the state – is the lone educator chairing the “Success Committee.”
Pritzker insisted “there’s no future for the state if we let education drop off the priority list” and said the state should send more money to poorly performing schools, despite a reported $1 billion budget shortfall for fiscal year 2019.
“We already have a challenge. And I was well aware of it, and I’ve talked about revenue resources and the fact that we have to balance our budget in a real way, and not in ways that, in April you find out you’re short by several billion. So we’re trying to figure that out,” he said. “You can’t solve all these problems immediately. It’s not like electing a new governor, day one, everything is solved.”
In reality, the financial problems plaguing Illinois schools and the state in general go back decades, and much of it is tied directly to union contracts and political corruption that continues to ratchet up the cost of education with little or no benefit to students.
Just last year, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison for steering $20 million in no-bid contracts to a former employer, SUPES Entities. Her motivations, according to prosecutors: “college funds, wedding funds, a signing bonus, being the ‘highest paid person on the planet’ on the day she returned to SUPES/Synesi, gifts, goodies, Target runs, ‘extermination’ checks, and lucrative employment as a consultant for the SUPES Entities, where she would make more money while doing less work,” the Plain Dealer reported.
Throughout Illinois, EAGnews has documented school districts that spend six figures on things like “white privilege” teacher training, taxi services, lavish travel and dining at out-of-state “educational conferences,” payouts for overly generous unused sick leave policies, expensive separation agreements for bad teachers protected by their unions, as well as a dizzying array of special stipends, bonuses and payments outlined in employment contracts.
But Pritzker and his team of politicians, union officials and sympathetic academics aren’t discussing contracts, or rooting out waste. Instead, they’re focused on collecting more money from taxpayers to pump into the broken system, limiting competition from largely non-union charter schools, and redistributing more money from affluent areas to cash-strapped schools.
“Pritzker campaigned on changing Illinois’ constitution to allow for income-based, graduated tax rates, but has not provided details on that plan. His other suggestions for raising money include legalizing marijuana and expanding gambling,” WTTW reports.