Lawmakers say educational investments are not paying off in Illinois

(The Center Square) – As Gov. J.B. Pritzker tours the state touting his proposed early childhood investments, some Republican lawmakers say taxpayers are not getting a good return for their money.

In his latest budget proposal, Pritzker wants to spend $250 million in early childhood education programs, and another $100 million on facilities. In the next school year, the program would add an additional 5,000 preschool spots across the state. He said a University of Chicago study shows it is a worthwhile investment. 

“And determined that we get $7 of savings for every one dollar that we invest in early childhood,” Pritzker said Wednesday in Rock Island. 

During a news conference Wednesday in Springfield, state Rep. Brad Holbrook, R-Shelbyville, said years of increased taxpayer spending on education hasn’t shown results.

“We’ve been putting money into these programs for a long time, and there is little evidence to suggest that these programs are accomplishing anything in terms of reading or math proficiencies,” Holbrook said.    

Holbrook noted that in 2022, despite an increase in spending, students in Illinois reading at grade level was at 30%, and students doing math at grade level was at 26%.

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said Illinois spends over $16,000 per student, far more than neighboring states.  

“We’re spending record money, we’re just not seeing the results,” said Wilhour. “We’ve got too much bureaucracy for one, just sucking away dollars from the classrooms.” 

Illinois has 852 public school districts, the fifth-largest number in the country. Together they account for nearly two-thirds of the local property taxes that local governments across the state collect each year. 

The GOP lawmakers also urged the General Assembly to extend the Invest in Kids school choice scholarship program. Pritzker has said he supports the program.