Hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend with your families. The Illinois General Assembly is on Spring Break. We will return on April 30th and remain in session until its adjournment at the end of May.
SJRCA 1 has officially been filed. You may see ads that say “97% of Illinois will see a tax cut”. This bill contains no specific tax rates, instead it provides for a ballot referendum to remove the flat income tax provision in the Illinois Constitution. Join me this Thursday for a discussion on what this means and the Governor’s proposed rates. We will also have a presentation from Americans for Prosperity on the history of the Illinois income tax.
Illinois’ Bloated School Administration
According to a report from the Metropolitan Planning Council, Illinois leads the nation in school district spending on administrators. The state’s 852 districts spent more than $1 billion in fiscal year 2016, more than any other state. Parsed out, Illinois spends twice as much per pupil on school administration as the national average — $544 in Illinois to $226 nationwide. Measured per pupil, that is the third highest rate in the country, nearly double New York at $349 and nearly five times as much as California.
Illinois has more school districts than every state except California and Texas. About one-quarter of those districts operate only one school and roughly 4 percent serve fewer than 100 students. There are many reasons for this including rural school districts in Illinois that serve sparsely populated areas and school districts that were formed to enforce racial segregation. However, this is clearly inefficient. Districts with more students tend to spend less per capita on administration. Chicago Public Schools, for example, spends $349 per student on administration still above the national level but below the statewide average of $544.
I’m the co-sponsor of a bill that recently passed the House that will create the School District Efficiency Commission to study how and where we can consolidate, reorganize, and realign school districts. It is obvious something must be done, but as our children’s education is at stake, it deserves careful consideration to ensure the right action, not just any action, is taken.
Driving Irresponsibly? Don’t.
The House recently passed a bill to double the fines for people who drive around a stopped school bus that is picking up or dropping off school children. First offense fines will be increased from $150 to $300 and second offense fines will be increased from $500 to $1,000. Current law requires a driver to stop before meeting or overtaking (from either direction) a school bus stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading students.
Public health experts and first responders are pointing to an increasing number of crashes caused by distracted driving and texting-while-driving. Therefore, the House also passed a bill to give new powers to a court that hears a case of texting-while-driving, when the act results in an accident causing great bodily harm to any person. The court is now directed to subject the violator to a minimum fine of $1,000 (up from as low as $75 in some circumstances). In addition, when a case like this occurs, and the violation results in a victim suffering great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement, the Secretary of State may suspend or revoke the driving privileges of the violator for 12 months.
The Illinois Sheriff’s Association is in the middle of a public awareness campaign aimed at better enforcement of Scott’s Law and a parallel State law against distracted driving. Scott’s Law, the Illinois state law named in honor of a fallen first responder requires motorists to move over when they see a parked first-responder vehicle. When you see the flashing lights, drivers are legally required to proceed with due caution, reduce the speed of their vehicle, maintain a safe speed for road conditions, and – of special importance – make a lane change, if possible. If not possible because of other traffic, the driver must pass the first-responder vehicle very slowly. The awareness campaigns are follow-ups to what is now a death toll of four traffic-related first-responder officer fatalities since the start of the year. U