Tableau Data Mining Fun – McLean County’s Sales Tax Referendium

2014-03-08 21_54_26-McLean County, IL - Official WebsiteI am following the debate around Bloomington about the March 18 referendum to add a 1% sales tax for schools.  Like any issue pitching money v kids, the conservatives v progressives are battling it out.  Those voting yes think about our children’s education, those against don’t want to see taxes go up.

Note: to educate yourself on the issue, I recommend reading Stifel Nicolaus Presentation to MCSD [PowerPoint] for details.

Unfortunately, neither this presentation nor the rhetoric online do good job comparing McLean county to other in the state.  So, what does the data say about what we already spend? 

I looked into this issue using 2012 Illinois State Board of Education data and threw it into Tableau to pretty up the spreadsheets.


This graphic is a is a little small. If you want to see these dashboards in their full glory, go here.

Mclean county is 28th (of 102) in spending, roughly a bit above the average, which is skewed by Chicago as they spend far more per student. We are ranked 8th in both our ACT scores and ISAT (an elementary school test.)

Not bad, though the county average mask the highly variable quality of our schools depending on which school a student attends. It is safe to assume that State Farm’s professional base gives are big lift overall.

Overall, I will vote No not because I dislike paying taxes for good causes, but because sales taxes are regressive, hurting the poor more. They pay a higher proportion of income on goods, which are taxed. Wealthier people spend more on services and save more, both of which are untaxed locally. I’d rather see a progressive income tax or property tax levy hike, if it is needed. But increased spending rarely increases our kids preparedness for life.

I might have voted differently if our schools where severely underfunded or our schools were underperforming, which the data suggests that neither is true.