Friday, December 08, 2006

Test Scores Behind - Way Behind; No Child Left Behind

Fran Eaton over at the Illinois Review sheds some light on the long overdue No Child Left Behind test scores annual report due last October from the State Board of Education. They're now not expected to be public until February!
. . . the scores are horrendous. They indicate five years of failure for numerous schools and school districts. The failures will be found in heavy minority areas.

The fifth year of the NCLB assessments are crucial. If a school has failed for five years, it will be forced by federal law to reconstruct. Some south suburban school boards are already in the process, fully aware the bad news is coming.

But here's the real stickler, and something conservatives have consistently overlooked while screaming about the NCLB's perceived federal takeover of education: After five years of school failure, a district must offer choice to the parents. If, as in the case of south suburban Hazelcrest, there are no schools within the district that meet the testing critieria threshold, choice outside of the district must be offered.

Now, perhaps, we can see why the test scores aren't available for public evaluation?

Where's the outrage -- from both parents and taxpayers looking for accountability for their tax dollars? Accountability means doing something when you discover failure, doesn't it?

We can think of nothing to add to that other than the emphasese which are ours as always.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

New Woodford Board to grow SOD?

The Pantagraph reported on Woodford County's new Board Chairman and the face of the newly seated Board. Nothing too earth shattering there.

Of interest is a new "Long Term Plan" for the County quite unfortunately named "Shape Our Destiny 2025". Who came up with that? The acronym would be S.O.D. Perhaps that needs a little tweaking.

On a serious note we sincerely hope that SOD isn't a cloak for super-zoning ordinances, super-Board Committees, and an attempt at "New Urbanism". We're all for looking ahead, you know - who are we, where are we, how did we get here, where are we going, blah, blah, blah - strategic planning 101. It just makes our wallets tingle when we see consultants and architects and "public input" meetings. When we first hear mention of "sprawl" we will lock the wallets in the safe deposit box at the bank.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Zsa-Zsa TABOR, daahling . . .

Finally someone is talking about not just PTELL, but the real root of Illinois' problem - spending! Spending needs to be capped!

Read about it here:

Chicago Business Group calls for taxes, but no "Swipe", erhh . . . "Swap"

The CHICAGO SUN-TIMES has an article in which a group of business folks call for tax increases. Yep, that's right. The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago feel Illinois is in such a mess that the only way out is for some type of income tax increase and closure of sales tax loopholes.

Thankfully, they also firmly and loudly decry the current "Tax Swipe" erhh "Tax Swap", the raising of income and sales tax in exchange for cutting property taxes, as a school funding mechanism, albeit for the wrong reason. They simply feel property taxes are more "stable" as a source of school income.

It also said no money from tax hikes should be used to launch new programs.

The Daily SouthTown actually has a better analysis here.

Both articles have what is (we assume) a typo. They state, "The report came out against a proposed "tax swap," raising property taxes in exchange for cutting income or sales taxes, as a school funding mechanism.".

They have that exactly backwards. It should read, "The report came out against a proposed "tax swap," raising income or sales taxes in exchange for cutting property taxes, as a school funding mechanism.

The SouthTown gets it right in its "sidebar", here.

Of course, not to be left out, here's the Blago Administration's spin on the story.

"All Kids" Illinois is Some Kids Illinois

The last numbers we heard on "All Kids" the as yet unfunded insurance (election campaign) program was enrollment of 28,000 with 16,000 of those illegal immigrants.

There are no residency requirements for this "program". While the numbers on illegals seems solid, there are also significant numbers enrolled who reside in Missouri (St. Louis and surrounding areas).

Obviously, we made a mistake when we claimed our U.S. citizenship and Illinois residency in the application process. The letter shown from the State of Illinois states without ceremony:

"We have decided that the children . . . you applied for cannot get All Kids Medical Benefits . . . Your declared family income is above the income standard"

So there seems to be (even though this is denied by State officials), an INCOME standard but no residency standard!

Only in the great state of Illinois that is confusion.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rantoul Library May Have Over Extended on extending Extensions

It appears that the Rantoul Public Library's stealth mode on property tax extension increases has gone awry. The News Gazette turns its radar on:

Rantoul officials question tax increases for library

Apparently for five of the last six years, the Rantoul library has received more than the 5 percent maximum increase allowed under the PTELL (property tax cap) law which Champaign County lives under. And it has done all this without voter approval. The village is a Home Rule entity.

"The library has become a big black hole for the taxpayers," said Rantoul Village Board member Mike Graham. "They seem to think that money grows on trees."

Rantoul Library Board President Frances Biederman said she has no comment on the yearly tax increases.

Hmmm . . . why do we suspect pensions have something to do with this equation?

Monday, December 04, 2006

NEA at Work and Play

Once again the indispensable E.I.A online comes up with some good stuff on the NEA. A hat tip to Mike Antonucci and his excellent newsletter.

The National Education Association filed its 2006 U.S. Department of Labor financial disclosure report last Wednesday, and the document once again reveals the extent of NEA's involvement in liberal philanthropy, and advocacy. Among the $4.7 millions spent with organization links:

100% for Great Public Schools - $110,000

AIDS Responsibility Project - $5,000

Alliance for Justice - $10,000

America's Agenda - $50,000

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education - $16,500

Americans United to Protect Social Security - $250,000

Amnesty International - $5,000

Asian American Justice Center - $5,000

Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund - $5,000

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies - $5,000

ASPIRA - $5,000

Baptist Center for Ethics - $20,000

Campaign for America's Future - $41,000

Center for Community Change - $25,000

Center for Innovative Policy - $125,000

Center for Law and Education - $50,000

Center for Policy Alternatives - $5,000

Center for Teaching Quality - $17,150

Center for Women Policy Studies - $5,000

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association - $52,500

Citizens Who Support Maine's Public Schools - $100,000

Committee for Education Funding - $16,182

Committee for Fair Elections - $100,000

Communities for Quality Education - $1.3 million

(formerly America Learns), an NEA front group created to advance the union's agenda on the No Child Left Behind Act)

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. - $56,800

Consortium for Educational Change - $11,900

Council of State Governments - $10,000

Democratic GAIN - $10,990

Democratic Leadership Council - $25,000

Economic Policy Institute - $208,474

Educational Impact Inc. - $40,000

Educational Testing Service - $42,266

Everybody Wins DC - $8,000

FairTest - $35,000

Faith and Politics Institute - $5,000

Funniest Celebrity in Washington - $20,000

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - $5,000

Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network - $5,000

Generations United - $30,000

Grassroots Democrats - $7,500

Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice - $250,000

Great Lakes Inter-tribal Council - $9,500

Harvard University Office for Sponsored Research - $50,000

HEROS Inc. - $79,890

Hispanic Press Foundation - $7,500

Home and School Institute - $45,131

Howard University School of Business - $5,000

Human Rights Campaign - $30,000

Institute for Women's Policy Research - $5,000

International Civil Rights Center - $15,000

Iowa Teaching and Learning Center - $17,000

Jobs with Justice - $10,120

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies - $10,000

Latino Book and Family Festival - $6,000

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights - $13,000

League of United Latin American Citizens - $15,000

Learning First Alliance - $52,890

Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change - $5,000

Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund - $10,000

NASA/PSTP - $12,500

National Alliance of Black School Educators - $5,000

National Association for Asian and Pacific American Education - $5,200

National Association for Bilingual Education - $5,000

NAFEA - $5,000

National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund - $10,000

National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents - $5,000

National Coalition on Health Care - $25,000

National Conference of Black Mayors - $5,000

National Conference of State Legislatures - $37,000

National Consumers League - $5,000

National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education - $320,160

National Council of La Raza - $8,000

National Equity Center - $15,000

National Indian Education Association - $40,800

National Parent Teachers Association - $5,000

NTL Institute - $52,250

National Women's Law Center - $10,000

New Organizing Institute - $25,000

Organizations Concerned About Rural Education - $5,000

Organization of Chinese Americans - $5,000

Partnership for 21st Century Skills - $45,000

People for the American Way - $160,805

Public Agenda - $32,351

Rainbow/PUSH Coalition - $5,000

Rebuild America's Schools - $10,000

Richard Ingersoll - $12,000

Ripon Society - $12,500

Southeast Center for Teaching Quality - $180,000

Southern Christian Leadership Conference - $11,450

Task Force Foundation - $10,000

United South and Eastern Tribes - $5,000

U.S. Action - $35,000

U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute - $15,000

WAND Education Fund - $12,000

Wellesley College Center for Research on Women - $10,295

How are we to take anything they say at face value? Does this even remotely resemble the organizations you support? Our teachers' dues which ultimately come from our property tax dollars are hard at work to solicit more tax dollars to provide more dues to be spent.

By the way, want your kid to join the NEA? They want them on their mailing list. Click on the picture above for a treat.

Woodford County Gets A Web Site!

No, seriously. Woodford County has a website!

I know we said that months ago, but we spent money on it. Lots of money.

Oh, well, no, it's not up yet . . . next April . . . yeah. It's gonna be great . . . there's gonna be transparency and stuff . . . accountability, and you know, e-commerce . . . and it's only gonna cost a couple a hundred a month to operate!

Woodford County has contracted with a Peoria firm to provide a web site and technological support - five months from now.

Hey, these things take time. LOTS of time; and money.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Even More On Hyper-Local (Township) Government

Transparency (peering through the wall of government) has more to do with just open meetings and published budgets. It also has to do with size and complexity.

John Ruberry over at Illinoize has a great blog on some of the insanity involving Illinois Township parcels.

If nothing else, it's nice to know the folks are thinking hard about this issue.

Missourans Snicker and Shake Their Heads

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has performed an analysis which finds that the Illinois General Assembly's current base salaries - you know, the ones that needed those fat raises, makes them the fifth highest-paid state lawmakers in the nation.

The only better-paid lawmakers — those in California, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania — all meet in session for more than half the year and are considered full-time legislative bodies.

Again, this is BEFORE the new raises!

Illinois legislators currently earn base salaries of $57,619, which is set to rise to $68,800 next year.

Missouri's base salary is $31,351.

Our legislators should also never consider moving to New Hampshire to take up politics as lawmakers there are in effect volunteers, getting $200 for their entire two-year terms, with no per diem.

School Fees Skyrocketing

School District "fees" have risen dramatically in Illinois for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that there is no "cap" on them and they're not subject to referendum. Here, for your hair-curling pleasure, are the top school busing fees in Illinois for "public" education:

1. Northfield 225 All who ride (1) $675
2. Glencoe 35 All who ride (2) $650/500

3. New Trier 203 All who ride $545

4. Park Ridge 64 Under 1.5 miles $495

5. North Shore 112 Under 1.5 miles $465

6. Deerfield 109 Under 1.5 miles $454

7. Avoca 37 Under 1.5 miles $425

8. Valley View 365U Under 1.5 miles $400

9. Wilmette 39 All who ride $395

10. Des Plaines 62 Under 1.5 miles $384

11. Schaumburg 54 Under 1.5 miles $375

12. Lake Forest 67 All who ride $365

13. Winnetka 36 All who ride $344

14. East Maine 63 Under 1.5 miles $340

15. Arlington Heights 25 Under 1.5 miles $340

16. Mt. Prospect 57 Under 1.5 miles $325

17. Kirby 140 Under 1.5 miles $320

18. Palatine 15 Under 1.5 miles $310

19. Lake Forest 115 All who ride $310

20. Addison 4 Under 1.5 miles $310

The source is the Chicago Tribune.

Remember that school in Illinois by constitutional law is to be "free":

A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the
educational development of all persons to the limits of their
The State shall provide for an efficient system of high
quality public educational institutions and services.
Education in public schools through the secondary level shall
be free. There may be such other free education as the
General Assembly provides by law.
The State has the primary responsibility for financing
the system of public education.
(Source: Illinois Constitution.)

Lesson On Taxes From Kankakee

In Beecher, Illinois the village, fire department, Township and the school district are all proposing increases in their property taxes.

Each is proposing a double-digit tax hike -- all designed to bring in higher taxes from new property.

The Village approved a 27 percent hike in the operating levy and cut debt service levy by 4.5 percent for an overall increase of 22.5 percent.

"All but 3.4 percent of this increase will come from new construction added to the books in 2006," said Village Administrator Bob Barber.

"Village residents who paid a property tax bill in 2006 will not see more than a 3.4 percent increase in the amount they pay the village next year. Barber added that, for the most part, the village's property tax has gone down over the past 12 years. "A home valued at $200,000 in 1994 paid $495.53 in property tax to the village," Barber said. The same home will pay an estimated $389.27 under the new levy.

Of course, the assessed valuations have also skyrocketed in the last 12 years so that same homewowner's property is now probably valued at $300,000 +!

The fire protection district is seeking a 39 percent hike.

Washington Township has proposed 16 percent increases in the township's property tax bill and in the township's road district.

Lest any gravy be left on this train, Beecher School Board seeks a 19 percent tax hike. It's estimated that there is roughly $10 million in new construction to tap in this district.

Superintendent George Obradovich said the school's request is "in line with the other taxing bodies".

So it's OK if everyone ELSE is doing it.

Still not content, the Beecher Village Board will hold public hearings on a proposed half-cent sales tax referendum. The referendum will be on the April 3 ballot.

Now I want someone to tell us that taxes AREN'T going up because the RATES are stable. Look at the SPENDING, folks.

If you have the stomach for it you may read the full article here:

Property taxes on the rise
Kankakee Daily Journal - Kankakee,IL,USA
... higher taxes from new property. Tax caps keep the property tax bite modest for most taxpayers. Village trustees Tuesday approved a ...