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School Funding Disparities Against taxpayers in low-income communities

Written by Featured Organization on 05 April 2010.

CHICAGO (NNPA) – The Illinois  education funding system is discriminatory against taxpayers in low-income communities, according to a suit filed by two homeowners. Paul Carr and Ron Newell, the plaintiffs, contend property taxes are higher in poorer neighborhoods than those in wealthier ones. 

“The property tax places an undue burden on those who cannot afford much for themselves or their students. We really need to take a look at how we can equalize the distribution of funds so that all students can have equal access to what they need to be successful educationally for their future and the future of this state,” Carr told reporters.

Carr and Newell (from the southern Ill. town of Cairo), worked with the Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, an advocacy group, to help bring the suit against the state and Illinois Board of Education.

BPI said a good example of the funding disparity is two elementary districts in Lake County. The Lake Forest School District 67 had a property tax base of $1.2 million per student in 2006 while neighboring Zion Elementary School District 6 had a base of $91,000.

“It’s inherently unfair that some people are asked to give more just to meet the minimum levels while others can give a much less smaller percentage and more than exceed those basic levels,” Carr added. 

Illinois has about 102 high school districts; about 34 are property poor. There are 378 elementary districts; about 126 are property poor, according to Scott Lassar, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

Lassar said it’s “unfair” for taxpayers in poorer districts and in affluent districts to have the same level of education funding, and welcomes others who want to join the suit.

Two years ago, the Chicago Urban League brought a similar suit against the state. It stated the funding inequalities violated the civil rights of minority students. The Urban Leagues suit is pending.

The state faces a deficit of about $13 billion. Gov. Pat Quinn proposed $2.2 billion in spending cuts while still owing school districts $853.5 million.

Paul Carr and Ron Newell, the plaintiffs, contend property taxes are higher in poorer neighborhoods than those in wealthier ones. 

Carr, of Chicago Heights, said all students deserve equal access to education, but he doesn’t see that happening in Illinois. •