Monday, October 18, 2010

Opinion: Study sales tax hike from all angles

The following is a portion of an op-ed column written by Beverly Bunch, a professor with the Center for State Policy and Leadership/Public Administration Department at the University of Illinois Springfield. It was published in an October 16, 2010, edition of The State Journal-Register.

"On Nov. 2, voters in Sangamon County have the opportunity to indicate whether they favor a 1 percent sales tax to support school facilities. If approved, the revenues generated by the tax would be distributed among the county’s school districts on a per pupil basis.

I realize these are difficult economic times to ask voters to consider supporting a tax increase. But as a university professor who has conducted research and taught public finance and budgeting for more than 20 years, I wanted to share some observations and highlights from studies that I believe are relevant to this referendum.

First, research indicates that school facilities do matter in terms of student learning. A University of California Los Angeles professor notes that studies have found a 5- to 17-percentage point difference between achievement of students in poor buildings and those in above-standard buildings (after controlling for the differences in socio-economic background of the students). Recent testimony before the U.S. Congress indicated that there is a relationship between a school’s physical conditions (indoor air quality, lighting, thermal comfort and acoustics) and student attendance and test scores. Does this mean that test scores will improve as soon as new facilities are built or old facilities are repaired? Most likely not, but it does suggest that over time, the improvements would have a positive impact on student learning."

Download the full article as a PDF