Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Child Left Behind (depending on tax district) — Part Two

Part two of Pinkmingo's investigation of the September protest by Chicago public school students against unequal funding. (Part one is here.)

What the Chicago Public Schools students attempted could easily be portrayed as illegal, since registering and attending a school outside the student’s home district is a crime in Illinois. Still, as mentioned in part one, the CPS schools receive $11,000 per pupil while New Trier High receives $17,000. While Senator Meeks was citing these figures in his protest, he failed to mention that the average per-student funding in Illinois is $9,000, putting CPS above the average. (Considering that Pinkmingo’s high school only received $600—yes, six hundred—dollars per student, complaining about thousands seems a bit unnecessary.)

Also, the New Trier school district only encompasses the two high schools, while CPS is responsible for elementary, middle, and high school education. Stating the obvious, the New Trier district has more money to spend on its high school students because, well, that’s all there is. If New Trier was responsible for all the schools CPS is, the funding ratio would be much closer.

Lastly, the main reason New Trier has more money is because of property taxes. The villages bordering Chicago pay an incredible amount of tax, anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 a year depending on the exact area. Being as far from a mathematician as one can be, Pinkmingo enlisted some help in explaining the Illinois tax system. Enter her future mother-in-law Karen Long, current Winnetka resident and mother of a New Trier graduate:

“In Illinois, property taxes pay for local education, and the bill lists all the taxing authorities separately. For example, an elementary school district, high school district, local village, and mosquito district all set their own tax rates. The high school districts in wealthier communities have more funds because the assessed valuations are higher, and the money goes directly to the taxing school district.” (And yes, there really is such a thing as a mosquito district. Google it.)

In layman’s terms, Winnetka property taxes can cost more than some Americans earn in one year, and that is a direct reason why New Trier High has more money.

For the CPS schools to receive the same funding, property taxes would have to be increased or the state would need to figure out a more equitable way of distributing tax money. Illinois could possibly collect taxes on a state level, then redistribute them among all communities so that every school district has access to the same amount of money. (But float that idea past any state’s taxpayers. Really, try it out. And then be ready to run.)

We wish all of this was as easy as contrasting schools in movies, but sadly, it’s a real-life conflict that shouldn’t be overlooked. WB supports what the protest movement stands for, but because of the lack of discussion of the real reasons “Breakfast Club High” has so much money, we can’t fully agree with it. Even so, we won’t go as far as Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, showing some obvious disagreement at a press conference the day the protests began:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

lol that's a great pic of da mayor! wonder how the kids felt about his "support"?