Next Battle: Unfunded Mandates

Published July 1, 1999

Although the new $500 tax credit for education expenses is welcome news for Illinois families who send their children to private schools, it’s not enough to save the Chicago archdiocese’s struggling Catholic school system.

The next step, according to Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Kloehn, is a request from the archdiocese that the state pay for the unfunded mandates the legislature has imposed on its schools. This is a familiar theme in Illinois, more often sung by local government officials forced to raise property taxes to pay for unfunded state mandates.

Mandates for such items as attendance records, counseling services, and required curricula cost private schools several hundred dollars per student, according to Elaine Shuster, superintendent of the Chicago Catholic schools.

“With reimbursement for unfunded mandates, this would stabilize the system as such” and keep it intact, Chicago’s Francis Cardinal George told Kloehn.