Sunday, October 14, 2007

School Daze

Over the coming weeks, we'll break down the four main candidates to own the Cubs, should the Trib ever settle their issues and proceed to sell the team.

But today, the discussion turns to the State of Illinois and your local public school.

As you may be aware, Governor Rod Blagojevitch and the state legislature have not been able to pass a budget. While Governor Virility has plenty of time to go to Cubs playoff games, he doesn't seem to have the desire or inclination to create a budget that funds the state's needs that doesn't include some populist measure that would bolster Rod's bonafides to run for President in 2012. The legislature refuses to comply so we have deadlock.

"Big deal," most of us think. All this means is that property tax bills will not be due until December. Or later. That's good! We get to keep our money and the state will simply get it later.

On the surface, that's true. The reality is that schools, and other state programs, are losing money. Lots.

The school district in this area receives 50% of its tax receipts in the fall, and another 50% in the spring. The monies come in in two large payments and are paid out slowly over the intervening months. This allows the district to invest the dollars and earn interest on the funds. These funds supplement budgets and provide additional funding beyond your taxes.

Guess what? No funds have been received so far this fall. Instead of having money to invest, districts are tapping funds held in reserve. Now, in a district where I live, the lost investment income comes to $15,000 to $20,000 PER MONTH. Now, take a district with minimal ready reserves. They not only lose interest income, but may have to borrow from a bank and pay out additional dollars in interest to keep operating!

You'd think the government would be focused on this issue, only.


State lawmakers thrust Illinois into the center of the national debate on school prayer today as the House approved legislation to require public schools to provide students with a moment of silence at the start of classes.

Students from kindergarten through high school will be allowed to silently pray in whatever faith they practice or simply sit and reflect quietly. Illinois teachers and students have had the option of doing so since 2002, but it wasn't mandated.

The Illinois House voted to override Gov. Rod Blagojevich's late August veto of the silent-moment measure. The governor cited concerns about the separation of church and state.

The problem with this law isn't the moment of silence. It's two things: 1) the lack of direction on how to implement it:

In school hallways and at closed-door administrative meetings throughout the Chicago area Friday, those most affected had anything but silent moments as they debated the new law's merits and what it means. Among the questions: How long would a "moment" last? How would officials enforce or monitor the silence?

"I think it's ridiculous," said Mark Merklin, a sophomore at South Elgin High. "What's the punishment if you talk all through the moment of silence? Is there a fine or what?"

Many students and educators were caught off guard after the legislature on Thursday overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of a measure that calls for silence but offered few guidelines on how to implement it. Each district will define the length of a "moment," as it thinks best, said a spokesman with the Illinois State Board of Education.

In short, it's a stupid law designed to do nothing more than create spurious law suits and draw attention for doing, ultimately, nothing.

But the gall of these "civic leaders" to dump this on the schools when they can't even provide the funds that keep them open is disgusting.

May the next election have mercy upon their souls. And, if you want to know how your reps voted, the Senate tally is here and the House list can be found here.

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