Thursday, November 14, 2019
US flag

Cymbals in Morton & the IL state budget

Board members in Morton, Illinois, applauded five grants at their regular meeting yesterday totaling $8,450 received last week from the Morton Community Foundation in the foundation’s annual spring grant awards, reports Steve Stein in the Peoria Journal-Star.


Cymbal players in a Texas marching band, 2009 (Andy via Flickr Creative Commons)

At that meeting, the board announced the planned acquisition of six cymbals for the nationally recognized band program at Morton High School, thanks to a donation of $860 from the foundation. It’s not the biggest amount the foundation is giving, but it’s the one that will make the most noise. The board also recognized the following gifts:

  • $2,500 to Morton Potter Television to help purchase a high-def camera
  • $2,995 to Morton Junior High for a robotics module for the new CareerMaker STEM lab

But not all the news was good, as the board also discussed the very real possibility that a property tax freeze in Illinois will be part of Gov Bruce Rauner’s compromise plan to get a state budget passed.

The governor’s comments in the past few months have been mixed, including a reference in his February budget address to not being able to “tax our way to prosperity. Nor can we just cut our way to a better future. We must grow our way to the future we want.”

That’s what I’ve been saying for almost two years. In order to “grow our way to the future we want,” the state needs to invest in education in STEM disciplines and in the humanities and arts, as they’re doing in Morton with community help. But not every community or school district has the Morton Community Foundation to step up to the plate and buy musical instruments, a TV camera, or a robotics kit.

Lately there has been talk about a compromise, with Mr Rauner suggesting he would be open to expanding the state sales tax base, as has happened in neighboring states like Wisconsin, “if we stand together to make the job-creating changes we need,” including the aforementioned property tax freeze, he believes. (He has also proposed changing the state’s workers’ compensation laws and imposing term limits on certain political office holders, which would appear to be more closely related to a job-creating engine.)

Yet the biggest job-creating engine a state can find is an investment in education and the programs public schools put together for students in every community. Make no mistake: There are places in the US that are prospering right now, where donations aren’t required for schools to buy cymbals. It’s just not happening in Illinois, because schools are hampered by the current budget impasse, which began in about June 2015.

How would the property tax freeze affect the Morton community? The Journal-Star noted that if the district couldn’t increase its property tax levy by the maximum 2 percent allowed under tax caps for the 2017-18 school year, the owner of a home with a $270,000 market value would see a $90.72 reduction in property taxes, or $7.50 per month, and the school district would lose nearly $530,000 for 2017-2018, including $429,000 in the education fund.

That amount equals the payroll expenses for seven full-time teachers and represents about half the district’s annual budget for athletics and band.

State Senator Heather Steans, a Democrat from Chicago and an appropriations committee chair who has worked on a plan, said achieving a balanced budget needs both cuts and tax hikes to balance. “It certainly sounds like (the governor is) in campaign mode rather than actually trying to solve the budget,” the Courier in Lincoln quoted him as saying. “Clearly, revenue is going to have to be part of any grand bargain to get us out of (the budget mess). And he knows that. I think the public needs to be aware and not given alternative facts about the fact that the only way we’re going to get out of this budget crisis is a combination of cuts and revenue.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.

A band teacher is IL Teacher of the Year

IL named a band teacher the 2020 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 19. He individualizes music instruction and shares his work with 1000s.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bookends Halloween

Several high schools have decided to add a little spook to their musical stages in this season of Halloween. Music makes it happen.

New IL law ensures inclusion of LGBTQ+

A law will take effect next school year in IL that will require students to study LGBTQ history as part of the social studies curriculum.

MoCo doubles down on summer learning loss

Research is at least equivocal about summer learning loss, but maybe there's something to a new plan in Montgomery County, Md.

Downers North lights up the gym for Beth

Ongoing fundraising drives for a Downers Grove N. volleyball player killed by an intoxicated driver in Feb. are going strong in this western suburb.

High-payroll Yankees don’t make World Series

The World Series begins Tuesday, but some of the playoff games can teach us valuable things about youth sports, investment, etc.

Chicago teacher strike enters calendar week 2

Chicago teachers strike for the 3rd day Monday; the union wants smaller class sizes and support for paraprofessionals.