Rep. Ives: Get Education Funding Reform Right; Reject SB 1

Rep. Jeanne Ives
Everything in Springfield is a fight over money.  There is no bigger fight than the one over K-12 education funding.  The 20-year old distribution formula for General State Aid has been distorted beyond its original intent and folks from around the state have increasingly been arguing for a more fair system to distribute state education dollars.

This fight has heated up over the last four years pitting city against suburb against rural districts. It is also a fight between property-rich districts that largely fund themselves and property-poor districts who want more state aid. 

A seminal 2013 report prepared by the Senate Republican caucus in response to Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) continuous request for more money for their bloated system showed even more inequities.  That report indicated the Chicago “free lunch” amounted to $800 million and that, if anything, CPS should receive less state funding.  For example, the report highlighted the following about CPS funding from the state: 

  • CPS has 31% of those in poverty, but receives 47% of the poverty grant money
  • CPS has 17% percent of special education students, yet receives 30% of the that funding
  • CPS has 18% of those in early childhood, yet receives 37% of the funding related to early childhood 
In a recent Chicago Tribune article, State Senator Andy Manar, the lead sponsor of the new funding formula contained in Senate Bill 1 argued that the old formula redistributes hundreds of millions of dollars according to rules where the poor lose and the rich win.  Nearly all agree we need a change; and Democrats, Republicans, school administrators and education policy experts alike have weighed in on legislation to change the formula.  

However, Manar’s legislation doesn’t actually change how most of the money is spent.  His legislation, which has passed the Senate and a House committee, locks in place the old formula in perpetuity, keeping the very inequities in place that he has argued against for four years. 

Case in point: Illinois spent $5.079 billion on General State Aid in FY17.  Under Manar’s plan, over 90% of the General State Aid funding would continue to be spent under the old rules.  Only new dollars would be spent under the new rules. In fact, the state would have to add over $5 billion in new education spending just to get to the point where the majority of education dollars were distributed under the new formula.  The prospect of the state being able to afford such new dollars in the foreseeable future is nil.

That is not a new formula; that is locking in the old way of doing business.  That means districts receive the same amount of money regardless of changes to their enrollment, poverty count, or property wealth.   This is not good policy for K-12 education in the State of Illinois.

Manar’s bill goes a step further and actually increases the inequitable funding by continuing to provide Chicago block grants that are not accounted for in the same way as other districts.  It requires the state to pay $215 million in pension costs for CPS, rising every year.  Manar’s legislation also requires taxpayers around the state to pick up the cost of healthcare for Chicago teachers and administration.  Do Manar’s own school districts and taxpayers in central Illinois understand they are asked to sign a blank check for Chicago teacher pensions and healthcare costs?

Manar’s bill is a disaster and moreover, it is deceptive.  The new formula is actually worse than the old formula.  Education funding is too important an issue to get wrong.  Our students deserve better; whether they live in the city, suburbs, or a rural community. Let’s work together to agree on an education funding reform plan that lifts up every student in the State of Illinois.

###

No comments :