LANSING | State Rep. Marcus Evans Jr., D-Chicago, told a gathering of local public school officials Monday the only way to avert major cuts in public education is to support an income tax hike.
"I will support an income tax increase," said Evans, who attended an education roundtable at Heritage Middle School. He did not specify how large of an increase or whether all funding from such a tax hike would be directed toward education programs. Such specifics will have to wait until March 26, when Gov. Pat Quinn presents his budget proposal for the state government 2015 fiscal year.
"Nobody wants less money," Evans told schools officials. "You all want a little more money to boost the ideas you have."
Evans, who met with officials from elementary and high school districts in Calumet City, Chicago Heights, Lansing and Sauk Village, said he is skeptical that talk of a casino in the south suburbs would provide much aid to public education programs.
"I'm not 100 percent sold on the idea of gaming providing a lot of money for the schools, but it may be part of the solution," Evans said.
The legislator, whose district stretches from his home in the Burnside neighborhood in Chicago south to Sauk Village, said he'd like to see changes in the way corporations are taxed because he said they are paying too little compared to individuals.
"The craziest thing I see (in Springfield) is businesses competing to see who pays the least in taxes," Evans said.
He said Chicago provides benefits to attract quality workers for high-technology and engineering firms that overcome any rhetoric about increased taxes driving companies out of state.
"If I had a business that had environmental problems, then maybe I'd want to move to Indiana, where they're a little more lax," Evans said. "But a lot of prominent companies employ people who don't want to live in Oklahoma, they want to live in a place like Chicago."
Sunnybrook School District 171 Superintendent Hughes George said he was pleased to see Evans make his first appearance at the Lansing/Lynwood-based school district since being appointed to the Legislature in April 2012.
He said he wanted Evans to listen to local educators to get a better idea of their concerns, which in his case center around the level of finances the state will provide for his school district for the 2014-15 academic year.
While Thornton Fractional South High School Principal Judith Whalen said she gains just as much from hearing other schools officials talk about their concerns compared to those of her school.