What follows is an open letter from the Illinois State Teachers of the Year.
As members of the Illinois State Teachers of the Year (ILSTOY), we come from all regions of our diverse state. Some of us teach in rural farming communities in Southern Illinois, others in large suburban schools near Chicago. In some of our schools, the poverty rate approaches 100%, and in others poverty is nearly nonexistent. We represent blue counties, red counties, and purple counties. And we have been recognized among the top teachers in the state because we are all passionate about advancing the education and well-being of children.
We love our students. We love our schools. We love our communities. And we agree on this: passing the Illinois Fair Tax is vital to all of our students. As educators, we see the impact of years of chronic underfunding for schools, and the disparities in resources from one district to another. We know from experience that each school has unique needs, and that these vary widely from rural to suburban and urban communities. But we also know that regardless of ZIP code, all students deserve access to the resources they need to thrive. The fair tax is an essential step toward equitable and adequate funding for all schools, and delivering on the promise that no matter where our students grow up, they will receive a world-class education.
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This year, COVID has widened the opportunity gaps that already existed between our wealthiest and most impoverished students. Even as we work to make hybrid or remote learning as effective as possible, we know that countless students lack access to technology, internet, school supplies and materials, and even meals. Now more than ever, we need adequate funding to eliminate these inequities. We must capitalize on this opportunity to ensure that all of our students have what they deserve — properly funded schools and access to high-quality education.
We teach our students about fairness, and yet Illinois currently suffers from one of the most unfair taxing systems in the nation. Because of our outdated tax system, we place a greater burden on low- and middle-income earners than on the wealthy. In its 2018 report “Who Pays?” The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found that the poorest 20% of families in Illinois paid 14.4% of their income in state and local taxes — while the wealthiest 1% paid just 7.4%.
To fix this, the Fair Tax proposes a graduated income tax rate, the kind used in our federal taxes and 32 other states. This plan would cut income tax payments for 97% of filers while raising approximately $3.4 billion in annual revenue for public services like schools, health care, and social services — helping to empower working families, drive social mobility, and speed recovery for those hardest hit by the pandemic. The Fair Tax will enable us to invest in our children and build a strong future for our state.
As citizens of Illinois and educators on the front lines working with children, we have been through a lot in the last year. The Fair Tax is the best chance we have at correcting our current budget situation and ensuring that our communities have access to education, healthcare, and other essential services. As Teachers of the Year from every corner of the state, we speak with one voice on behalf of our students: please vote “yes” for the Fair Tax.
Eric Combs, Olney, 2020 Teacher of the Year
Susan Converse, Edwardsville, 2019 Teacher of the Year
Lindsey Jensen, Dwight, 2018 Teacher of the Year
Kim Thomas, Peoria, 2016 Teacher of the Year
Steve Elza, Palatine, 2015 Teacher of the Year
Brian Curtin, Schaumburg, 2013 Teacher of the Year
Kevin Rutter, Chicago, 2010 Teacher of the Year
Ruth Meissen, Loves Park, 2008 Teacher of the Year
Jennifer Leban, Elmhurst, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Maggie Moore, Rockton, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Rick Coppola, Chicago, 2019 Teacher of the Illinois Finalist
Sara Magnafichi, Elk Grove Village, 2019 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Bill Polasky, Stillman Valley, 2019 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Katherine Whitington, Chicago, 2019 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Bill Farmer, Evanston, 2018 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Jacob Carlson, Bethalto, 2014 Teacher of the Year Finalist