East Aurora High School is spending nearly three times what it did in 1997, but its test scores are down ten percent. | Youtube
Kane County taxpayers are spending twice as much on high schools as they did 20 years ago, but ACT scores across the county have actually fallen over the same period, a Kane County Reporter analysis has found.
From 1997 to 2017, public high school districts in the county have increased their annual tax spending from $819 million to $1.65 billion, an increase of 101 percent, adjusted for inflation. That's while enrollment has increased just 39 percent, from 78,356 to 108,812.
ACT scores countywide fell from 21.8 in 1997-- higher than the then-state average of 21.3-- to 20.4 in 2017, now lower than the state average or 21.4.
Over the past two decades, Kaneland Senior High School District, Burlington Central Community School District 300 and Geneva Unit School District 304 saw the most outsized tax increases, outpacing their enrollment growth by two to three times.
Kaneland enrollment rose 96 percent, while tax revenue rose 204 percent. Burlington Central enrollment rose 112 percent, while tax revenue rose 192 percent. Geneva enrollment rose 48 percent, while taking 142 percent more in taxes.
In Geneva, where the average compensation package is $125,000 for nine months of work, teachers are currently on strike. They have rejected a proposed salary increase of approximately 20 percent over three years.
Median ACT scores at the three districts were flat to slightly up, rising from 22.6 to 22.7 in Kaneland, from 21.9 to 22.5 in Burlington, and from 23.3 to 24.1 in Geneva.
$1.4 billion in debt.
The analysis tracks tax revenues the districts receive for operations, but not state taxpayer-subsidized pension contributions, which amounted to another $400-500 million this year, or 38 percent of salary paid to teachers.
According to the Chicago Tribune's school debt database, Kane County's nine school districts have a collective $1.401 billion in debt.
Elgin's U-46 school district has $401 million in debt; it receives just over $500 million in taxes per year.
St. Charles CUSD has $85 million, or approaching half its annual tax receipts. Geneva has $141 million, approximately 1.5 times what it receives.
Kaneland has $120 million, nearly twice what it receives in taxes and 126 percent of its state-mandated limit.
School enrollment rises, but taxes rise twice as rapidly.
Kane County schools are nearly 50 percent larger than in 1997. But Kane County school spending has risen more than twice as much.
|1997||2017||Enroll CHG||Tax $$ CHG|
Source: Illinois State Board of Education
Spending has soared, but Kane County ACT scores have fallen
In 1997, Kane County schools had higher than state average ACT scores. But now they are lower than average.
|State of Illinois Average||21.3||21.4|
|Kane County Average||21.8||20.4|
vs. IL Avg
vs. IL Avg.
|97 to '17 CHG|
|St. Charles East||22.9||7.5%||23.5||9.8%||2%|
|St. Charles North||22.9||7.5%||24.3||13.6%||6%|
Source: Schools and Illinois State Board of Education; 1997 data for St. Charles is from single high school, which was the predecessor to East & North. Bartlett and South Elgin were not open in 1997.