PI Original Angela Caputo Saturday September 20th, 2008, 11:58am

CPS' Duncan Renews Call For State Income Tax Hike

As state lawmakers head back to back to Springfield Monday for an overtime session to tackle ethics reform, Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan said they ought to add one more thing their to-do list: Take responsibility for funding public schools. The Chi-Town ...

As state lawmakers head back to back to Springfield Monday for an overtime session to tackle ethics reform, Chicago Public Schools chief Arne Duncan said they ought to add one more thing their to-do list: Take responsibility for funding public schools.

The Chi-Town Daily News reports that on Thursday Duncan called on state legislators to approve a “modest income tax hike” to generate more money for education:

“Keep it simple,“ Duncan said at a hearing in Oak Park convened by the Illinois House of Representatives Elementary & Secondary Education Committee. “We cannot solve every problem facing the state with a single new revenue source. Focus first on education and capital -- kids and jobs. Once we address these issues, Illinois can tackle other issues.“

City officials, in July, decided against raising property taxes on behalf of CPS. Instead, they opted to pull $100 million from reserve accounts to get the cash-strapped system through the current school year.

Duncan's voice adds depth to State Sen. James Meeks' recent calls for state officials to make reforming the school funding system a top priority. So far, it appears the message is falling on deaf ears. Determined not to let that happen, Meeks' announced yesterday a plan to take the debate to a broader audience by attracting 6,000 school funding reform advocates to protest at Wrigley Field during the Cubs' Oct. 1 playoff game.

With the state budget already in turmoil -- and a credit crunch underway -- Crain's reported yesterday that school officials ought not get their hopes up that legislators will soon find consensus on a state income tax hike:

[T]hat requires approval by the governor and General Assembly, and they continue to squabble about just about everything. With its own revenues weakening, state government has begun to implement hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts. Some may be avoided if the state draws down excess cash in special-service funds, but such one-time revenue raisers are frowned upon by fiscal experts.

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