(from left) Kristine Mayle, Karen Lewis and Michael Brunson of the Chicago Teachers Union talk about teacher layoffs. | Lauren Fitzpatrick~Sun-Times
Updated: July 23, 2013 9:19PM
The announcement that Chicago Public School teachers and education support staff will be laid off in massive numbers is the latest blow to Illinois schoolchildren in 2013.
We’re seeing layoffs in big and small school districts throughout the state. Districts that have for decades had to “do more with less” have now reached their breaking points.
After cutting field trips, after-school activities, elective programs and the arts, we’re now seeing staffing cuts aimed directly at the children. These reductions will ensure bigger class sizes and less time for teachers to spend with students who need additional attention.
The good news: The teachers won’t give up. We never do.
When I started teaching, districts didn’t provide the classroom resources required for a teacher to meet the needs of her students. We made sure the children got what they needed by purchasing it for them ourselves.
That’s one aspect of public education that has not changed. We’ve always willingly reached in our own pockets to make sure our children get what they need.
But this crisis, epitomized by the devastating Chicago cuts, is different. Bigger class sizes guarantee a less effective teaching and learning environment.
We can’t help them if we’re not there. If we don’t help them, no one will. That’s bad for the children, bad for their communities and bad for the entire state.
Our schools are underfunded because our state over-relies on local property taxes to fund education. We have the distinction of being last in the nation when it comes to state support for education.
Property taxes are the largest source of education funding, which means that children living in areas with little or no property wealth are, literally, out of luck.
The Illinois Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) estimates it would cost about $8,700 to provide every student with an “adequate education.” In the just-passed state budget, the per-student average will be $6,120. That’s definitively less than adequate and, therefore, unacceptable.
The children are being cheated.
We must create a fair tax system that will allow the state to provide adequate school funding without further harming the middle class.
People with lower incomes should pay lower rates than those with higher incomes. We can ease the burdens on middle class and working families and small businesses by closing corporate tax loopholes and ensuring rich people pay their fair share.
It’s the failure to have a fair system that is cheating our state’s children of their birthright.
Children in Chicago, Rockford, Carbondale and everywhere in between deserve a quality education.
Cinda Klickna is president of Illinois Education Association