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Chicago Matters: Valuing Education

The Nation's Premier Multimedia Public Affairs Series
Initiated and funded by The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Matters is an annual exploration – via television, radio, print, and community dialogue – of an issue of broad concern to the Chicago region. Learn More


Education Funding in Illinois: What's Next?
Aired December 5, 2006

Throughout this past year, Chicago Matters has focused on many aspects of school funding in the state, from the disparity in resources between urban and suburban schools and the inequities of the property tax as the main source of funding, to what some schools have done to make up for a lack of dollars and the role the private sector plays in helping out struggling schools.  Most everyone agrees that the way Illinois funds its schools is broken and unfair, but how to "fix" the problem is still the subject of heated debate. The Illinois General Assembly has yet to pass any meaningful legislation to reformulate how schools are funded and voters re-elected Governor Blagojevich who has proposed selling the state lottery to fund schools.  On our final Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll look back at our series of reports and talk to panelists about the future of school funding in Illinois.

Michigan Tax Swap
Aired November 21, 2006

In 1995, the state of Michigan reformulated the way it funds its public schools by enacting a "tax swap." Reliance on property taxes was replaced with an increase in the state sales and income taxes. Nearly a dozen years later, school advocates say the economy-based taxes coupled with increased state oversight has left schools worse off than before the swap.  On the other hand, many in the business community as well as a number of elected officials still believe the swap is a fairer way of funding schools.  On our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll pay a visit to the Grand Rapids Public Schools to see how the tax swap has affected Michigan schools and whether a similar plan, long proposed in Illinois, is a good option.

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Paying the Pensions
Aired November 7, 2006

The subject of pensions has become a national issue with a number of companies either setting caps on or suspending pension funds as a cost cutting measure.  In Chicago, the issue is a critical one for Public School officials, its teachers and its students.  Earlier this year, CPS CEO Arne Duncan called the school system’s teachers pensions obligations "a ticking time bomb."  Officials say the amount of money coming from the state for pension obligations remains virtually static while their costs continue to skyrocket every year.  CPS says without more state funding, the only way to meet pension obligations is to cut teachers and classroom programs. On the next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll take a look at the Chicago teachers' pension fund crisis and whether school children will have to pay the price if more funding isn't forthcoming.

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School Funding and the Governor's Race
Aired October 24, 2006

On November 7, voters across Illinois will decide who will lead the state for the next four years.  The decision is an important one as Illinois confronts some major policy hurdles in the years to come; chief among them is how to improve funding to our schools.  The Republican, Democrat and Green Party candidates all have made school funding key issues in this campaign but all three offer different approaches to how they would tackle the problem.  On our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll analyze the school funding proposals of the three gubernatorial candidates with panelists representing school funding watchdog groups.

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Chicago Virtual Charter School
Aired October 10, 2006

Starting this school year, Chicago will have a real 21st century school – concentrated in a computer. The Chicago Virtual Charter School will serve up to 600 children.  According to Virtual Charter School officials, students will participate in traditional classroom instruction one day a week but the rest of the time kids will learn and study from home with the assistance of a parent or responsible adult.  We'll take a look at the costs involved in this new form of instruction versus the traditional schooling.

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The Cost of Overcrowding
Aired September 26, 2006

In late August, the interim principal at Gage Park High School on Chicago's southwest side was fired after he refused to take in additional students to his already overcrowded school. His firing has drawn renewed attention to the issue of overcrowding in Chicago public schools.  Gage Park is only one of a number of schools in the mostly Latino southwest side that takes in more students than it should.  While Mayor Daley has announced the construction of nine new high schools, 15 elementary schools and three major high school renovations over the next six years, school officials say they need much more money from the state to make overcrowding a thing of the past.  In our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education, we'll take a look at the impact that overcrowding is having on students, teachers, families and communities and what school officials say it would cost to end overcrowding across the city.

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Out of the Teacher's Pocket
Aired September 12, 2006

Each year Chicago public school teachers are given $100 to buy supplies for their classrooms. This nominal amount is used up quickly and most teachers reach deep into their pockets to purchase many of the supplies and tools they need for their students.  We'll check in with some teachers to see what the $100 stipend does and does not cover and how much of their own money is invested in their classrooms.

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The Facility of Facilities (Tilden H.S. vs. Stevenson H.S.)
Aired June 20, 2006

Tilden High School in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood faces many challenges not the least of which is the school building itself.  A crumbling infrastructure and the lack of resources for some classes make for a difficult learning environment.  At the other end of the spectrum is Stevenson High School in north suburban Lincolnshire which boasts a state-of-the-art facility on a 76 acre campus.  Students have nearly 100 co-curricular and extra-curricular activities to choose from including water polo and a student radio station.  Tilden's graduation rate is 55% while Stevenson's is 99%.  For our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll take a look at school facilities and what sort of impact – both economically and aesthetically – it has on the quality of education.

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Bake Sales and Beyond
Aired June 6, 2006

What's a school to do when its public funding doesn't go as far as it would like it to go?  Turn to private sources, of course.  On our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we'll take a look at two schools with aggressive fundraising efforts.  In one case, the donations of money, services, and equipment have transformed the school both physically and academically.  In the other case, the school's fundraising program has served as a model for other schools with limited resources.

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Illinois Lottery Funding Plan
Aired May 24, 2006

What does Governor Blagojevich's just-announced plan for using the sale or lease of the Illinois Lottery to increase school funding mean for a quality education across school districts?  Is there substance to it, or is it just a political move designed to bolster the Governor's re-election bid?  Eddie Arruza and his panel examine the question as part of our continuing Chicago Matters: Valuing Education series.

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Milwaukee's Voucher Venture
Aired May 9, 2006
Rebroadcast Tuesday, July 18, 2006

School choice is a frequently mentioned and controversial issue that forms part of the public education funding debate.  Should parents be given state funds in the form of vouchers to select what school they want their children to attend?  Could such a system be viable for Illinois in general and Chicago specifically?

Milwaukee implemented a voucher program in 1990 and today 14,000 students attend 115 private or parochial schools at a cost of $83 million to the state of Wisconsin. For our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment, we visit two Milwaukee schools which accept voucher students.  Both have religious affiliations but one has a longstanding tradition in the Milwaukee area while the other was started as an exclusive voucher school.  We’ll take a look at what these schools offer their students, why parents opted to send their children to them and the impact the program has had on the Milwaukee Public School system.  We'll also talk with supporters and critics of the program to get their perspective on the voucher system.

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Private Financing, Public Education
Aired April 25, 2006

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded the Chicago Public Schools a $21 million dollar grant to "develop a more challenging and engaging curriculum in English, math and sciences" at the high school level.  It is the largest single grant the Gates foundation has given a local school district. The new curriculum will start being implemented next school year in 14 freshman classes and then be expanded in subsequent years.  For our next Chicago Matters: Valuing Education segment we'll look at what that $21 million dollars will buy the Chicago Public Schools and how it will change the curriculum of the students.  We'll also talk to education funding advocates about private financing of public education, whether the private sector is where public schools need to look in order to make up for the lack of additional money from governmental sources and whether private donations only lessen the obligation of legislators to fund education.

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A "Model" School?
Aired April 11, 2006

If it were to be judged by Illinois public school standards, St. Elizabeth Catholic Elementary school in Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood would seem woefully inadequate. Most of the K-8 students come from low income homes and the school spends less per pupil than the vast majority of public schools in the state.  Yet the children at St. Elizabeth test at or above what their counterparts do in the public schools and school officials say their kids go on to do well in high school and college.  If a school that spends half of what a nearby public school does can boast of excellent results, is it a model for what budget strapped public schools can do?  We'll take a look at how St. Elizabeth School does it and what public schools say about such a "model."

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Dawn Clark Netsch's Tax-Swap Proposal
Aired March 28, 2006

Former Illinois Comptroller and State Senator, Dawn Clark Netsch, made a risky proposal when she ran for governor in 1994.  She suggested a tax swap for funding education in Illinois. Her idea was to raise the state income and sales taxes and lower property taxes.  It was a concept that did not resonate with voters and, some say, doomed her candidacy.  Several years later the man who defeated Netsch, Governor Jim Edgar, proposed a similar idea and even now there is pigeonholed legislation in Springfield that offers the same proposal.  On our next installment of Chicago Matters: Valuing Education, we'll talk with Dawn Clark Netsch about her controversial proposal and why she thinks its the best way to improve school funding in Illinois.

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Gubernatorial Candidates Speak on School Funding
Aired March 14, 2006

Eddie Arruza will interview the gubernatorial candidates about school funding in Illinois.  Each candidate will be asked about his or her position on the current property tax based system and about his or her plans to reform it.

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The Price Tag for Preschool
Aired February 28, 2006

During his budget address this past week (February 15), Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed  a universal preschool program for Illinois that would give all children as young as 3 access to preschool programs.  It's a plan that would make Illinois the first in the nation to have such a program for children that young.  Currently, many school districts provide preschool only for 3 and 4 year old children considered "at risk" or with special needs or if they fall within low income guidelines.   We'll visit two school districts that turn away many families because of a lack of funding for pre-school.  We'll also take a look at the Governor's proposal and see how the 3 year/$135 million plan will be funded and what that will buy.  As part of that we'll talk to an early education expert to see why funding early education is necessary and what the qualifications for an early education teacher are.  We'll also analyze whether – as some observers contend – the "better" early education teachers seek higher paying districts leaving "average" pre-K teachers to the districts that can afford them.

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A Sense of Obligation
Aired February 14, 2006
Rebroadcast Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Should wealthier Illinois school districts feel obligated to assist districts that are struggling?

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Funding 101
Aired January 31, 2006
Rebroadcast Wednesday, July 5, 2006

A primer on how schools are funded in Illinois focusing on how they are constitutionally mandated to be funded and how they really are.

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Valuing Education
Now in its 16th year, Chicago's award-winning, multimedia public affairs series returns in 2006 with Chicago Matters: Valuing Education to explore the importance – and cost – of providing a high quality public education to all Illinois children.

Click Here for more information about Chicago Matters: Valuing Education

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Funding 101 Hi SpeedSense of Obligation Hi SpeedPrice Tag for Preschool Hi SpeedGubernatorial Hi SpeedNetsch's Tax-Swap Proposal Hi SpeedModel School Hi SpeedPrivate Public Hi SpeedMilwaukee's Voucher Venture Hi SpeedIllinois Lottery Funding Plan Hi SpeedBake Sales and Beyond Hi SpeedFacility of Facilities Hi SpeedOut of the Teacher's Pocket Hi SpeedThe Cost of Overcrowding Hi SpeedChicago Virtual Charter School Hi SpeedSchool Funding and the Governors Race Hi SpeedPaying the Pensions Hi SpeedMichigan Tax Swap - Hi SpeedFunding 101 Lo SpeedSense of Obligation Lo SpeedPrice Tag for Preschool Lo SpeedGubernatorial Lo SpeedNetsch's Tax-Swap Proposal Lo SpeedModel School Lo SpeedPrivate Public Lo SpeedMilwaukee's Voucher Venture Lo SpeedIllinois Lottery Funding Plan Lo SpeedBake Sales and Beyond Lo SpeedFacility of Facilities Lo SpeedOut of the Teacher's Pocket  Lo SpeedThe Cost of Overcrowding Lo SpeedChicago Virtual Charter School Lo SpeedSchool Funding and the Governors Race Lo SpeedPaying the Pensions Lo SpeedMichigan Tax Swap - Lo SpeedChicago Matters: Our Next GenerationChicago Matters: Inside HousingChicago Matters: Money TalksChicago Matters: Valuing EducationChicago Matters: Beyond BordersChicago Matters: Growing ForwardChicago Matters: Beyond BurnhamContact UsSite MapPressroomWTTW Digital ArchivesProduction ServicesCorporate SponsorshipHomeSchedulesProgramsWTTW KidsWTTW ArtsWTTW EventsSupport WTTWAbout UsMembers OnlyGeoffrey Baer Tours - Seven Wonders of ChicagoArchitect Robert A.M. Stern: Presence of the PastArchitect Michael Graves: A Grand TourArchitect Thomas Beeby10 Buildings that Changed AmericaCatholicismProhibitionAmerican Graduate