Schools cited as top Illinois state problem

By Mark Gates

Most Illinois residents list education as the most important problem facing the state, according to results of a survey conducted by NIU’s Center for Governmental Studies.

Eight hundred adults were polled state-wide through telephone interviews. Of those, 22 percent said education is the worst problem facing Illinois, a slight drop from 24 percent a year ago and 26 percent the previous year, the center reported. Unlike the rest of the state, respondents from central Illinois said they were more concerned about taxes than education.

Two-thirds of those surveyed want to see spending increased for public schools, but just a little more than half said they would support tax increases for higher education. Forty-two percent of those polled support an unqualified tax increase if the funds are used for education.

When asked about state spending priorities for increases, 43 percent listed public education first, 11 percent listed job training and 5 percent listed higher education. Sixty-three percent think more of their tax money should be spent on educational job training.

The second most frequently cited problem was taxes and government spending. Eighteen percent of those surveyed said it concerns them more than education.

Illegal drug use ranked third, with 14 percent viewing it as the top problem. Last year, only 4 percent of those interviewed said drugs were the state’s worst problem. An overwhelming 85 percent said they see illegal drug use as a serious national problem.

Three out of ten people surveyed admitted to having used illegal drugs at some time: one-third of respondents from the suburbs around Chicago and one-fourth from northern Illinois.

Broken down by age, 56 percent of Illinois residents under 34 said they had tried illegal drugs at some time, compared with 19 percent between the ages of 35 and 60 and only 2 percent of those over 60.

One-third of those with college degrees surveyed said they had used illegal drugs. One quarter of all women and more than one-third of all men surveyed said they had used illegal drugs.

Only nine percent of those surveyed said unemployment was their top concern, down nearly half from 1985. However, 14 percent of Chicagoans and 16 percent of Southern Illinois citizens said unemployment was their top concern.