It may sound outlandish, but it’s true: Illinois state education officials have asked for an 86 percent increase in operating spending for education next year. A $7 billion increase means Illinois total education costs – at more than $19 billion – would swallow more than half the state’s current budget.
While the request is being downplayed as “symbolic,” it reveals just how out of touch education officials are from the realities facing Illinois and its residents, like the state’s crumbling finances, punishing tax bills and the increasing flight of Illinoisans.
Illinois taxpayers already spend more on education, per student, than the entire Midwest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2016, Illinois spent 44 percent more than Indiana did and 24 percent more than Wisconsin. Illinois spent $2,400 more per student than the national average.
But if the state education board gets its way, Illinois taxpayers will be asked to spend 50 percent more per student than what their neighbors pay for education. An additional $7 billion means Illinois spending would jump to more than $17,500 per student (using the 2016 national numbers for an apples-to-apples comparison). In contrast, Indiana spent less than $10,000 per student in 2016.
That’s a lot to ask for from Illinoisans who already pay the nation’s highest property taxes.