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ST. CHARLES – School funding and arming teachers were two of the topics addressed during Wednesday's candidate forum for the 49th state House District.
The forum was hosted by the St. Charles Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee. Democrat and Batavia resident Maura Hirschauer and Republican and North Aurora resident Laura Curtis are vying for the seat.
Hirschauer is a former elementary school teacher and has been involved in various community organizations, including being one of the founding members of the Kane and Kendall County chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Curtis was first elected to the North Aurora Village Board in 2011 and is real estate appraiser.
While Curtis is in favor of arming teachers, Hirschauer is opposed to the idea.
"It's a constitutional right we have to bear arms," Curtis said. "That said, I think we can do so safely. It should be the choice of the teacher. What we need to do in those circumstances is training, just like we train our law enforcement how to safely and responsibly handle a gun...I think it would be a good deterrent for violent crime within our schools, mass shootings and things like that."
"Guns have absolutely no place in our schools," she said. "Schools should be safe spaces for children and teachers to access learning. The presence of the firearm has been statistically shown to lead to more accidental shootings and cause more harm than good. And frankly, I fear that this shows my opponent is out of touch with what teachers and families and students want to see in their schools."
The two candidates also discussed school funding. Hirschauer noted about "66% to 70% of our property taxes go toward funding schools."
"And that is part of this huge problem that makes property taxes so unbearable and unsustainable in this state," she said. "The Illinois state government picks up about 25% of the economic burden of our public schooling. So if we can increase the funding to maybe 50% or even 60%, we can see equitable funding across our state and across our district and relieve that property tax burden on the middle class."
Curtis agreed that the state needs to pick up its fair share.
"That said, the state's broke," she said. "So we need to come at this from a top down approach. I would like to see a task force formed to look at redundancies within our local units of government. Let's get rid of the waste and the redundancy and free up some of that money so that our state can step up and do what it's required to do, which is to help fund our schools."
The fair tax amendment was also discussed. In November, voters will decide whether to replace the state's flat-rate income tax with a graduated rate structure.
If approved by voters, those taxpayers filing jointly with incomes of $100,000 or less would pay rates slightly lower than the current rate of 4.95%. Couples with joint incomes of more than $250,000 – would see rates increase to 7.75%, with millionaires filing jointly paying 7.99%.
Curtis is against the fair tax amendment.
"Barack Obama said himself you don't raise taxes during a recession," Curtis said. "I am against the fair tax. I think what we have now protects our citizens and protects our businesses. If the fair tax goes through, it's not going to solve our problem of taxation. It's going to exacerbate the problem we have."
Hirschauer said voters should decide whether Illinois implements a graduated income tax structure.
"It's the same tax structure that is used at the federal level and in 32 states," she said. "The question of whether or not Illinois adopts a graduated income tax structure is up to the voters. It's democracy in action."