What's in it for education... Political Income Tax Victory?

The income tax increase to help bail out a bankrupt State of Illinois came as a relief to many who supported it. The Democrats in Springfield overcame republican opposition to pass a 66 percent increase in the state income tax to help pay for an estimated $15 billion Illinois state debt.

The key promise Governor Pat Quinn gave to the Chicago Teachers Union and other unions was to support a tax increase that would avert massive state layoffs. Many believe it was hard union support which gave Quinn his victory over his Republican opponent in the November 2, 2010 election. Brady threatened to cut $1 billion from the education budget, among other things.

But the next question to ask is — where exactly will the new revenue go?

The Raise Your Hand coalition, which began operations last Spring, has scheduled a public forum on February 8 to address the question.

Members of the Raise Your Hand coalition at a rally on May 2, 2010 at Lane Tech High School in Chicago. The Raise Your Hand coalition has remained in operation since working on the budget during 2010. Substance photo by Hannah Rehak."Thanks to all of you who helped to send over 5,500 emails via our 'No Taxation without Education' campaign,'" the Raise Your Hand coalition newsletter read in its January issue. "Unfortunately, we got taxation without education and just a 'promise' from our Governor to include $250 million for education in this year's budget. Of course, we won't believe that until it's in writing."

According to Raise Your Hand (RYH), there was "some support" for increased money for education in the state senate, led by the Black Caucus, but house speaker Mike Madigan was against any additional money for education, instead directing the increased revenue to pay off the roughly $15 billion in debt and $8 billion in late bills.

"There was another opportunity for education money through the cigarette tax which would have generated $377 million for education but this was voted down in the House as well, with only 51 legislators in support, and 60 votes needed to pass," according to RYH. "While this isn’t the outcome we wanted, this $6 billion in new revenue to pay down our debt will likely result in fewer cuts to CPS next year. Clearly, we can’t be content with this and we need to continue to do everything we can to advocate for improved and sustainable funding for education in Illinois."

RYH joined the CTU last year to expose the corrupt Tax Increment Financing districts that outgoing Mayor Daley set up all around the city to siphon off tax revenue for his pet projects at a time when the city was, and still is, almost bankrupt. Eventually the mayor handed over more than $70 million to the schools which layed off over 1,500 teachers last summer (about 700 were rehired).

Leading mayoral candidate Rahm Emmanuel, who refused to participate in RYH and CTU's mayoral candidate forums last month, will meet with both the CTU and RYH to discuss his ideas for education.

"Together we helped to get $90 million in TIF monies returned to CPS this year," RYH stated. "We plan to continue to advocate for more TIF money to be returned to our schools and this is one of many topics we plan to discuss with (Emmanuel). We will let you know the outcome of that meeting."

The CTU will have met with every leading mayoral candidate by early next week and will soon make an endorsement which the house of delegates will vote on at its meeting next month.

In other political news, the CTU stated it helped block the Performance Counts legislation which aimed to gut teacher union collective bargaining and outlaw teacher strikes, prevented an attempt to extend CPS' reduced pension obligation, and fought off the voucher bill (which would divert funds from public schools) and a "vaguely" written bill that aimed to revoke union rights to any employee with a minimal leadership role in the workplace.

RYH will host "The ABCs of School Funding" on Feb. 8 at 7pm at Lakeview High School with guest speaker Ralph Martire of the Responsible Budget Coalition to discuss how schools are funded in Illinois.


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