Good Schools Not Worth Price to Some People Say Public's Willingness to Support Education Falls with Higher Taxes

Article excerpt

Improving education was the biggest concern of Illinois residents in 1999, yet most people were reluctant to pay for improvements through big jumps in property taxes, a report released Tuesday from Northern Illinois University indicates.

Twenty-five percent of those surveyed from the collar counties of DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will, named education as the top problem facing Illinois, while 23 percent of Northwest suburban residents cited it.

Seven out of 10 Illinoisans surveyed said they would be willing to pay an extra $100 a year in property taxes to see changes in areas like reducing class sizes, more computers in classrooms and higher teacher salaries.

But the numbers dropped off dramatically when asked if they would be willing to pay more than $100, with only one in three willing to pay $200.

"The willingness to pay higher taxes to support education declined as the amount of the tax increase goes up," said John L. Lewis, who analyzed the results.

State education officials said they had not yet seen the report but were not surprised by the findings, especially when it comes to increasing property taxes for school funding.

"Nobody likes to pay more taxes; however, this is the system that we have," said Tom Hernandez, a spokesman for the Illinois State Board of Education.

This is the 11th year that education has topped the list of residents' concerns on The Illinois Policy Survey. It is compiled by the Center for Governmental Studies at NIU's DeKalb campus. Each October and November a sampling of about 1,180 residents throughout the state are polled by phone.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.

The survey gauges public opinion on a variety of issues ranging from social issues to finance and politics. The data is used by legislators and education officials to get a better idea of what Illinois residents are thinking. …