McCombie calls for fully funded education, says ‘no’ to free college
Savana Mayor Tony McCombie recently shared her dismay over the status of the education sector in Illinois.
The Republican candidate for the state House seat in District 71 is challenging incumbent state Rep. Mike Smiddy (D-Rock Island).
In an interview with Jim Niedelman of “4 The Record” on Local 4 News, both candidates discussed education in the state and possible measures to take to improve the situation.
One of the main issues linked to the education sector is the budget. Recently, the state implemented a stopgap budget that allowed the public schools to be fully funded this academic year. Despite this measure, administrators from schools in poorer areas pointed out they are being left behind by the state. The student-funding formula remains a problem for these districts.
For McCombie, an ideal way to solve the issue is through fully funded education. Throughout her campaign, the Republican candidate has been openly advocating for this measure. Citing her experiences as a student in smaller school districts, she shared how this proposal could greatly ease the burden for her constituents.
McCombie also noted how the incumbent officials failed to implement effective ways to curb this issue. According to the Republican, the schools affected by these budget concerns are in dire need of action from their elected officials. That is, the change should be implemented and not just promised in speeches.
“I find it interesting that everybody that’s running for office supports the education, but however it seems to still be a mess…and we don’t get the answers [we need],” said McCombie in her interview with “4 The Record.” “So one of the things I’m actively going to try to make changes for. The stopgap did fully fund, but that’s the first time it has been fully funded in seven years.”
McCombie further pointed out how the funding formula could not feasibly address the problems of the education sector in the state. She added that the issue lies in the fact that the formula implemented today fails to take into consideration all the factors faced by the schools. More specifically, the formula does not address the issues encountered by school districts in rural areas of the state.
“We have some legislators who agree that in the past, the underfunding was an acceptable amount and that can’t happen. You know, the funding formula that’s made today is not made for our students who are in schools especially those that are rural,” explained McCombie in the “4 The Record” interview. “The schools are all uniquely different and we need to treat them accordingly. So until we can do that, we’re not going to make changes and all are just fake promises.”
McCombie also discussed the issues faced by higher education. Although she acknowledged the drop in college enrollees, the candidate rejected the proposal of providing free college for students, saying this idea will not help solve the core problems of the sector.
“I don’t agree that free tuition is the way to go,” McCombie said during the “4 The Record” interview.
She explained that one of the key things officials need to resolve is determining why the amount of student debt today exponentially rose compared to that imposed years ago.
“I grew up in a small town and I worked through college like a lot of people do, and had some student debt," she said. "The difference is my student debt was about $17,000 and now they are coming out with three times that amount. So we need to figure out what is happening. The inflation rate certainly has not gone up that much to make that happen.”
McCombie also shared that student debt and college fees are not the only reasons for the drop in higher education enrollees. She pointed out that the lack of state funding for high schools and elementary schools is to blame as well.
As a consequence of this lack of funding, schools have to rely heavily on property taxes. While this measure is acceptable for bigger areas, the smaller and poorer districts cannot sustain the expenses.
“The schools continue to rely on property taxes because the state continues not to fund them. They have no choice. So until we get them fully funded, they are going to have to rely on those property taxes,” McCombie told “4 The Record.”
In addition to Savanna, the 71st district includes Rock Falls, Coal Valley, Morrison, Port Byron, Sterling, Hillsdale, Moline, Silvis and East Moline.