McConchie voices opposition to state's unfunded education mandates
State Sen. Dan McConchie (R-Hawthorn Woods) took to Twitter to express his views on the continuing onslaught of unfunded mandates placed on schools by the Illinois legislature last week.
He ran on a platform of reducing spending, cutting taxes and freezing property taxes.
"The list of unfunded mandates on Illinois schools takes up a whole ream of paper," McConchie tweeted.
Unfunded mandates are the mandatory classes, programs, regulations and other items placed on schools and local government without providing funding.
While suicide prevention efforts, concussion prevention, driver education and discipline policies are important issues in K-12 education, requiring school districts to provide additional services and classes as well as design new curriculum without providing the means to pay for these items puts a heavy burden on schools and ultimately the local homeowners.
McConchie also took to social media and posted a picture of the list of those unfunded mandates last week. The stack was literally, as he'd said on Twitter, the size of a standard ream of paper, or 500 sheets of paper.
"Do you pay too much in property taxes?" McConchie posted. "Here's the list of every unfunded state mandate on your local school that's costing you money. Time to #FixTheSystem."
The Associated Press reported on the issue via Fox32 in 2015.
"Illinois imposes well over 100 mandates on school districts, covering everything from classroom content to parent-teacher conferences and school holidays," according to the report. "Districts that cannot or don’t want to follow the mandate may apply for a limited number of waivers — a process that requires public hearings, paperwork and state approval."
Even if a waiver is approved, it is for a limited time, so eventually the school district must implement the mandate and find a way to fund it. Otherwise, the district faces fines, which also impact the schools and expenditures.
When the state imposes mandates on schools, districts turn to property taxes to fill the gap between funding and expenditures and pay for unfunded mandates. Illinois already has one of the highest property tax rates in the nation, second only to New Jersey. Taxes, both property and income, are one of the reasons why Illinois residents continue to leave the state for locations with lower taxes and better employment and educational opportunities.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has tried to eliminate some of Springfield's unfunded education mandates, which have been estimated to add more than $200 million in costs to school districts annually. By reducing or eliminating these mandated spending and curriculum requirements, Rauner's proposed property tax freeze would not adversely affect schools.
Until the mandates are reduced or eliminated, however, a property tax freeze would leave school districts without a way to pay for additional costs imposed by the legislature.
McCombie, like many of his Republican colleagues, believes the state should not impose mandates on school districts. Instead, parents, teachers and local school boards should determine what is best for their schools and children.
In addition, as Illinois Policy Institute Vice President of Policy Ted Dabrowski pointed out, raising taxes hasn't solved Illinois' budget woes. The 67 percent tax hike imposed on Illinois taxpayers from 2011-14 garnered approximately $32 billion, yet left the state with $7 billion in unpaid bills and an additional $30 billion in pension debt.
Whether on a local or state level, raising taxes won't solve budget issues in Illinois. As McConchie said on his campaign website, following fiscally responsible policies such as reducing spending, eliminating unnecessary state mandates, freezing property taxes, reforming state purchasing practices and balancing the state's budget are among the solutions to Illinois' fiscal woes.
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