OUR VIEW: Budget plan good if world cooperates:


Editorial board

Education is always a safe bet when it comes to government spending. Who could oppose an investment in young people, especially when a plan covers almost 20 years of a student’s life?

That’s the thrust of one piece of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s plan with the Illinois state budget, which he unveiled in full this week.

The plans for new investments start with $250 million in new spending to expand access to early childhood education. The outlay is expected to create 5,000 new pre-K spots for low-income children. It’s considered a down payment on a multi-year plan, dubbed “Smart Start Illinois,” aimed at providing every child with access to pre-K.

Pritzker also called for increasing funding for the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP), a state-funded, need-based grant awarded to Illinois college students, by $100 million. Administration officials say this plan, coupled with federal Pell grants, would make community college free to nearly all Illinois residents at or below the median income level. More than 40% of working-class public university students would also have their tuition and fees covered via this combination.

Pritzker also proposed $70 million for improving the teacher pipeline. The funds will be allocated to 170 school districts experiencing hurdles in hiring and retaining teachers. They could be used for incentives like signing bonuses, housing stipends or help with student loans.

In total, the budget calls for $12.8 billion allocated to education. That’s a significant piece of the pie. Is it enough to turn the fortunes of some of the state’s school districts, where test results show a lack of progress?

Economic uncertainty can also cloud any budgetary plans. What’s ahead for the economy in Illinois and the United States? You can find predictions that will support any position you want to take. Pritzker’s plan assumes little bad news on the economy.

But the questions remain even among the person in charge of maintaining the central fiscal accounts of the state. Comptroller Susana Mendoza has warned the governor and legislators to go slow on new spending.

This is just the beginning of the discussion. Lawmakers will soon begin hearings and will craft a plan before adjourning in May.

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Region: Decatur,City: Decatur,Opinion,Region: Central

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February 17, 2023 at 01:11PM

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