State throwing local schools under the bus
Courier-News editorial May 18, 2012 1:34PM
Updated: July 1, 2012 12:03PM
Let’s ask a fundamental question: Does the Illinois Legislature really care about public education, or must schools be shoved ever closer to the precipice in the name of fiscal balance?
We ask because of several odious ideas emanating recently from Springfield regarding public schools. It has led us to wonder if there’s an undeclared war by state legislators on public schools and, by extension, the parents and students of Illinois.
It’s a bad business. Our children are not a “special interest.” Their parents are not the enemy. And our schools and teachers are not an unwelcome burden. They prepare our children for the future, greatly helping them become productive citizens.
The latest assault on local schools is cloaked in the typical malarkey about fixing the budget. Not content with cutting state aid to local schools and possibly shifting teacher pension costs onto school districts, lawmakers are considering the ultimate in small ball — changing the formula for funding school buses and shifting more costs to the school districts and parents.
Sure, make more children walk to school or more parents drive them, create more traffic congestion and potential danger around schools. Or force parents to pay a few hundred dollars, on top of the other rising fees they pay, so their kid can take the bus. That’s a fine way to balance the state budget.
Several Chicago-area districts now charge for summer school busing. If the state cuts its school transportation funding, more districts will have to charge for the regular school year or cut back on bus routes.
We realize that the state is broke and a deadbeat and that reform of major programs such as Medicaid and state pensions is a must. But dumping state costs onto local government is a shell game. Public education is the state’s duty (check the Illinois Constitution), and safe transportation to school is not a luxury.
If the Legislature is waiting for someone to hold up a large stop sign, we’re doing so. The children and parents of Illinois deserve better than it’s giving them.