Illinois reportedly spends nearly half of its education dollars on pensions
Illinois spends more on its students than any other Midwestern state, according to an analysis by the Illinois Policy Institute.
Illinois spends approximately $13,000 per student on average, almost $4,000 more than Kentucky, at $9,300, and a little more than $3,000 more than Missouri and Indiana. Iowa and Wisconsin are the only other Midwestern states spending more than $10,000 per student, but each still spends significantly less than Illinois.
One problem with spending so much is that instead of going to the classroom, nearly half goes to funding pensions (excluding those in Chicago), the institute said.
“In fact, if you look at total education spending from 2009 to 2014, the state added $8.9 billion in new dollars over and above the base amount of $6.8 billion it spent in 2009," the institute said in its Pensions vs. Schools report. “Of those new dollars spent, 89 percent went to pay for retirement costs. Just 11 percent made it to the classroom.”
The cost for educator benefits, including current teachers and retirees, has gone up nearly 1,000 percent since the late 1980s, from $10 billion in 1987 to $110 billion in 2015. And the cost of the benefits might not be the only financial drain on the budgeted student dollars.
The institute also reports that on average, almost half of the state’s school districts include less than three schools. That means that over a third of the districts in the state provide education for less than 600 students each. The increased number of districts, and the duplicitous administration employees are “inefficient,” according to the institute, anda major driver of property taxes throughout the state.
The institute also said that more than 80 percent of the superintendents in Illinois receive six-figure compensation packages and are set to receive $2 million to 8 million in pension benefits throughout their retirement.
“Advocates of tax increases and higher spending don’t want to be held accountable for poor educational outcomes and fiscal mismanagement in Illinois, so they blame the state and a lack of funds,” the institute said.
Instead of raising taxes, the institute calls for reforms that would funnel tax dollars into classrooms and make consolidation of districts easier.
“If critics truly wished for more funding to reach Illinois’ students, they’d push lawmakers to reform pensions, consolidate districts and increase accountability – not demand more from struggling taxpayers who already pay the highest property taxes in the nation.”