by Bruno Behrend
Those of you familiar with IllinoisReview are probably aware of many of the debates we have with NW Burbs - our local "progressive" troll. (That's a term of endearment, NW)
Furthermore, those of you familiar with my views (or my web site) are probably aware that I'm promoting a workable -- but admittedly aggressive -- tax and education reform for Illinois. The first version is on my web site and the second version will be shorter on heated rhetoric and longer on the features, benefits, and numerous details - like transition issues.
Regardless, in a recent comment on one of the posts here, NW asked some substantive questions that deserve answers. Rather than post an extensive comment, I thought it was simply be better to answer in a separate post.
Let's start with the general outline of my plan. (Incidentally, I'd love it if the plan was the "Republican Plan," The Fritchey Plan, or even the Topinka Plan, but even the best people in the legislature suffer from a failure of imagination. They are all too afraid to question the absurd notion that we need to increase `education spending.'
1. Zero out property taxes for education.
2. Pass HB 750 tax increases (broaden sales tax services, income tax goes to from 3% to 5%).
Both of these together represent a $2.5 to $3.5 billion tax cut for Illinois individuals and businesses.
3. Abolish all school districts as entities. (892 Bureaucracies disappear)
4. Convert every IL public school to a charter school managed by the parents who choose it.
5. Combine increased state revenues with existing education spending to fund every Illinois child equally with a "fully funded" scholarship redeemable at any Illinois school.
6. Repeal all mandates (and the entire existing school code) and replace them with a rational testing regime that features sequenced, objective content standards. Testing should take place at the end of every student year, and it should be administered by an entity 100% independent of the school. Simply require that any participating school has a 90-95% "pass rate", along with a "remediation plan" for those who fail.
The education reform portion creates 100% "local control" (not the current illusory local control) while abolishing the horrific education apartheid created by this awful property tax system.
As I've discussed this with numerous people, including some legislators, I've been forced (thankfully so) to think about some of the more difficult issues involved in such a dramatic reform. I remain convinced that this plan is workable. (Yes, I'm ignoring the political realities at the moment - abolishing slavery was once thought impossible too.)
The hard work will be in the transition from the current system to the new one. With that in mind, let's get to NW's questions (in bold).