Guest Editorial: What Suburban Taxpayers Should Know About SB16

Senate Bill 16, which has passed in the Illinois Senate and is awaiting debate in the House, will make sweeping changes in how the state funds education. In most suburban school districts, the bill will have a severe, negative impact. State education is currently funded by several sources – federal, state and local. SB 16 consolidates 83 percent of Illinois’ education resources and redistributes according to a formula devised by Senate Democrats and Democrat House leaders.
As an example of how SB 16 could impact us locally, this bill will take $9.8 million away from Community Unit School District 200, an 82-percent drop in state funding, or the equivalent of funding for 132 teachers. The result will potentially be teacher layoffs and/or property tax hikes through a referendum.
Most importantly, SB 16 is a money grab designed to prevent Chicago’s severely underfunded teacher pension system from collapsing under its own weight at the expense of suburban schools. The legislation has a provision allowing any local resources used by a board of education for payments into a public school teachers pension fund (for normal costs) to be deducted from their local resources available when calculating their available local resources for formula purposes. This provision will have the effect of increasing their Per Pupil Aid Grant by an amount equal to that pension payment. No other district gets this type of relief.
Additionally, suburban members of the House Elementary and Secondary Appropriations Committee, both Republican and Democrat, were not invited to recent meetings about SB 16, even though taxpayer-funded staff from the Illinois State Board of Education were involved in the discussions.
Finally, and perhaps most discouragingly, the Senate sponsor of the bill admitted through testimony that he never looked at how the underlying factors that feed the formula are determined, such as equalized assessed value and poverty count. This is unacceptable.
I do not disagree that the school funding formula needs adjustment. In fact, I have advocated for a change in the funding formula that would promote equity, efficiency and excellence.
Sen. Michael Connelly and I invite you to join us on Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Wheaton Warrenville South Auditorium for a forum on SB16 and the future of education in Illinois. We will be joined by ISBE Superintendent Chris Koch, ISBE CFO Robert Wolfe and other area legislators and superintendents. Please let these state officials know how you feel.

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