Guest columnist Ralph Martire: Bailey’s statement on public education defies credibility – Daily Herald

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During a recent interview, Darren Bailey, the Republican candidate for governor of Illinois, maintained the state ought to cut spending on public education. That position is so far off-base it blows past foul territory and actually leaves the stadium. Because if Bailey had even a rudimentary grasp of how Illinois’ new school funding formula — the Evidence Based Formula For Student Success or “EBF” — works, he’d recognize the state needs to invest more in public education, not less. Here’s why.

The EBF, which passed on a bipartisan basis and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, actually represents “best practice” in school funding, in large part because it ties the dollar amount taxpayers invest in schools to covering the cost of implementing those educational practices that research shows actually enhance student achievement. These practices include everything from class size and professional development, to the number of core teachers, guidance counselors and Tier 2 interventionists a district needs. Put simply, the EBF funds what works.

The EBF then determines how much it would cost each school district to implement each such evidence-based educational practice, predicated on its total enrollment, as well as the number of low-income, special needs and English learner students it serves.

In other words, the EBF automatically adjusts the amount of resources a district needs, based on the unique student population it serves. Which means when fully funded, the EBF will create a system that’s both adequate in amount and equitable in distribution.

Unfortunately, according to the Illinois State Board of Education, the current amount of K-12 funding in Illinois is some $3.7 billion less than what the evidence indicates is needed for each school to have the resources to educate the children it serves. And Bailey wants to cut school funding?

Even more curious is Bailey’s head-scratcher of a rationale for reducing state spending on education. According to Bailey, the high-quality academic programming offered in excellent schools like New Trier — you know curriculum designed to ensure students who graduate high school are college and career ready — isn’t needed in downstate communities like Clay County, because “Most, many of our children, some of our children are going to the military. They’re going right into the workforce,” where they get employed as ‘pipe fitters,’ ‘welders,’ and ‘linemen.'”

Wait, what? There’s so much wrong with that thinking it’s impossible to unpack it all in one column.

So let’s just hit some of the high notes. Apparently, Bailey believes the only children who benefit from a rich and rigorous K-12 education are those fortunate enough to live in affluent communities and hence are expected to attend college. As for those kids who live downstate, let’s save some money by spending less on their education, since they’re just going right into the workforce or military anyway. That’s not only offensive on levels, it’s also wrongheaded.

If a school doesn’t help students develop the numeracy and literacy skills needed to get a postsecondary degree, they aren’t going to do so well in the economy or military.

Start with the workforce. Current estimates are that anywhere from 62 to 75 percent of all new jobs require a college degree. Moreover, the earnings potential associated with attaining a college degree continues to grow. Back in 1979, the median weekly earnings of a worker with a B.A. was 38 percent greater than a high school grad. By 2022, that gap had widened to 85 percent.

So a public school that

fails to prepare a kid for college sets that kid up for economic failure — something folks in Clay County probably won’t find acceptable.

Then, there’s the military. According to the U.S. Army, a soldier needs a bachelor’s degree to become a commissioned officer and a master’s degree to be promoted to the rank of captain or above. America’s armed forces doesn’t really want dumb soldiers handling smart bombs.

The bottom line: Bailey’s positions on public education lack credibility.

• Ralph Martire, rmartire@ctbaonline.org, is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a fiscal policy think tank and the Arthur Rubloff Professor of Public Policy at Roosevelt University.

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October 26, 2022 at 07:10AM

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