Yesterday, Senator Daniel Biss came on our Hitting Left with the Klonsky Brothers radio show and podcast.
On the issue of his role as a leading advocate for pension theft and the unconstitutional bill he got passed in the Illinois legislature to do that, he repeated his “I made a mistake.”
As mistakes go, it was a whopper.
I was more interested in his analysis of the mistake. Biss has an interesting one. He said that his mistake was that he fell into the “culture of Springfield” that says we couldn’t fix the revenue problem until we made cuts to pension benefits. “I accepted that status quo thinking much too fast,” he told my brother and me.
Let me say that I appreciate Biss’ candor and in no way is this an endorsement of any other Democrat running, and certainly not an endorsement of Bruce Rauner.
But I told Biss on the show that he and his Democratic colleagues in the state legislature were making the same mistake again on school funding.
Biss and Senator Andy Manar have been speaking around the state for three years in favor on one version or another of the current education funding bill that the governor has vetoed.
Even the governor’s education advisor, Beth Purvis, says Rauner supports 90% of the bill he vetoed.
The governor’s veto is based on his political calculation, which is a fundamentally racist calculation, that bashing Chicago gets downstate votes.
To be clear, the legislature should vote to override this veto as they voted to override the governor’s budget veto.
No $100 million voucher programs should be added to it to get Republican votes. Senator Biss agreed and called vouchers a red line that Democrats could not cross.
Schools need to open and stay open.
However, for three years Democrats, including Daniel Biss, have been focused on changing the formula of how inadequate money should be divided among school districts when they should have been fighting for adequate funding.
When Senator Biss and retirees crossed swords on pension theft we said at the time that instead of wasting all these years going after our pensions while the unfunded liability continued to grow by billions of dollars, address revenue.
Nobody listened to us then. They are not listening now.
It is a continuation of an acceptance of the culture of Springfield, of accepting the status quo.
To quote from the final school funding commission report:
“At the time of writing this report, the amount of additional state money needed for all districts in Illinois to be at or above their adequacy target is estimated to be a minimum of $3.5 billion over the next decade.”
In fact, the report continues, for the state to do its fair share and fund 51 percent of the cost of education, it would need to come up with an addition $2.5 billion beyond that $3.5 billion, for a total of $6 billion.
No one in Springfield has a plan to do that.
Without a massive infusion of state dollars, the inequities inherent in school funding cannot be addressed long term and property taxes will continue to increase, causing a public backlash.
Poor children in Illinois get gimmicks, word games and double-talk from legislators, not a quality education. Rauner could have said that, but instead undermined his own flawed reform plan because, like all the other politicians, he simply doesn’t intend to spend the money needed to get the job done right.
Stop doing this Senator Biss.