Amendments outlined

By Kevin Lyons

Local school district officials have differing views of a proposed amendment on the November ballot to change the role of education in the state constitution.

Illinois voters will receive a blue booklet from the Secretary of State this week, outlining two proposed amendments to the constitution.

The education amendment says: “The state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

Some local school district officials said the amendment should be passed, so it will send a message to the Illinois General Assembly.

At least one local school board member and the President of the National Taxpayers United of Illinois, will be voting no on the proposal. NIU Legal Counsel George Shur, a School District 428 school board member, said he believes ratification of the amendment “will be a signal to the IGA.”

“I think that people are fed up with the present taxation system and the primary reliance on property taxes for school funding,” Shur said.

“DeKalb takes the hit on property tax,” Shur said. “I would guess that about half of the property is tax exempt.”

The inequity of distribution in education funding is “obviously unfair,” Shur said.

“Illinois has some school’s spending $11,000 per student per year, while others spend about $3,500,” Shur said.

DeKalb spends $4,200 per student per year, which is about $600 below the state average, he said.

Charles McCormick, associate superintendent of business for district 428, called the amendment “vague” and said it doesn’t really deal with the issues that need to be dealt with.

“I’m certainly going to vote for it, but it doesn’t really solve the problem,” he said.

McCormick said he hopes the amendment can serve as a catalyst in that process.

But, Shur said if the amendment is ratified, tax reform will be necessary before any effects come about.

“The amendment does not specify how (tax reform) is going to be done,” Shur said.

He said the reforms will probably deal with lowering property taxes and raising income taxes, but the uncertainty has some voters scared.

Stanley Johnson, another District 428 board member, said he is opposed to the amendment.

“That (education) isn’t what a constitution is supposed to do at all,” Johnson said.

He said he considers education a privilege and not a right and that the government cannot guarantee equality in education.