SPRINGFIELD – As hundreds of parents, teachers and supporters of public education descended on the State Capitol today to rally for more education dollars, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich met with Chicago Public Schools’ CEO Arne Duncan, Chicago Board of Education president Michael Scott, former Chicago Board of Education president Gery Chico, and several Chicago area lawmakers to discuss his Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan. The Governor’s proposal would boost school funding by $440 million without increasing the sales or income taxes, and increase high school graduation standards so students are better prepared for higher education and the workplace.
“Over the past two years, we’ve increased education funding by more than $1 billion – and we’ve been able to do it without going back to the hard working men and women of this state and asking them to pay more in income or sales taxes. With discipline, we can continue to build on that success,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We’re seeing an unprecedented groundswell of support for more school funding. I hope all the key players – educators, school officials, parents and lawmakers – will concentrate their energy to pass the Higher Standards, Better Schools Plan so we can, for the third year in a row, significantly increase our commitment to schools in Illinois without increasing the tax burden on families.”
On Monday, the Governor announced the new Illinois Education Excellence Task Force (IEETF), a group of education leaders from around the state that will work to pass his Higher Standards, Better Schools plan. The group’s chair, Gery Chico, joined the Governor today to talk with Chicago school officials and members of the Illinois General Assembly about the importance of increasing education funding and toughening high school graduation standards.
“While an awful lot of well-meaning people are passionate about bringing increased funds to our schools, it is imperative that we work toward achievable, passable legislation that will mean new dollars for our schools next year,” said Chico. “And, this kind of meeting with leaders in education will help us lay the groundwork to do that.”
Without raising income or property taxes, the Governor has sent more than $1.1 billion in new money to Illinois schools since taking office. The Chicago Public Schools have benefited from an increase of 18%, or $330 million in new funding from the state under the Blagojevich administration.
In fiscal year 2004, the Governor increased school funding by $400 million, and in fiscal year 2005, he increased it by another $389 million. In comparison, Governor Ryan increased school funding by only $575 million in his first two years, while Gov. Edgar cut school funding by $5.4 million during his first two years. The Governor’s FY 2006 budget proposal represents a $990 million increase in K-12 annual education funding over the FY 2003 annual budget.