Last week House Republican Leader Jim Durkin expressed optimism that current talks going on between partisan budget experts could generate movement towards a solution.

At an educational event in west suburban LaGrange that he attended with Governor Rauner, Durkin discussed the need to reach budget action in order to improve prospects for sufficient school funding for Illinois public schools. While the Illinois General Assembly enacted full funding for Illinois school districts in Fiscal Year 16, this money was not part of a constitutional balanced budget and does not extend into FY17. The next fiscal year will begin on July 1, 2016, adding pressure on state negotiators to talk seriously on urgent issues of fiscal and budget reform, and Illinois job creation.

General Assembly Approves $700 Million in Stopgap Human Services Funding
SB 2038 provides emergency help to some providers of essential and community-based programs. Providers who may get some money from this appropriation include: those serving families of persons with developmental disabilities, community-based addiction treatment services, child-care visitation services for families of children at risk, and programs that provide emergency and transitional housing for at-risk families. These are segments of a large group of state programs that are not funded by consent decrees, court orders, or continuing appropriations. Program areas helped by SB 2038 are expected to get about 46% of the spending they would otherwise have received in FY16.

Although the Illinois General Assembly advanced SB 2038 on Thursday, May 12, the Governor has not signed the amended measure. In addition, SB 2038 does not substitute for a constitutional balanced budget and does not meet some of the essential operating needs of the State that are also high on the public-sector emergency list right now – such as payments for the suppliers that sell food and utility services to state prisons. Negotiations continue on these serious questions and challenges. Illinois
has been operating without spending controls since July 1, 2015.

Senate Democrats Approve Changes to School Funding Formula which Include Massive Chicago Public Schools Bailout
Facing a “structural deficit” of hundreds of millions of dollars annually, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are widely seen as being in a state of fiscal crisis. The state’s largest public school district, which is a nominally-independent unit of government that operates under the close supervision of the Mayor of Chicago, has been forced this year to repeatedly sell long-term bonds in order to raise funds desperately needed for immediate operating purposes. In keeping with CPS’s overall fiscal standing on Wall Street, this debt is sold bearing usurious, junk-bond interest rates. Legal liabilities for these debts and interest are borne by Chicago taxpayers.

Illinois’ largest city has launched a major effort to share these burdens with the State as a whole. SB 231, described by its supporters as a rewrite of the State’s complex school aid formula, would rewrite the formula to move statewide tax money. Under the “new” SB 231 formula, net winners would include Chicago, school districts in some low-property-value suburbs of Chicago, and some Downstate districts. Downstate districts expected to win under the new funding formula are disproportionately located in the southern third of the State.

All District 81 Schools lose valuable state aid dollars through this redistribution of state funding. The chart below outlines the impact on local schools:



In this latest proposal, Senator Manar offers a $241 million “Adequacy Grant” that would be distributed to school districts that are highly taxed but are still funded at a level Manar deems as inadequate. The problem is, he has not identified a revenue source for this adequacy grant money. Because he is relying on phantom money to fund grants (based on “adequacy” determined by only Manar), the first two columns on the above chart are a more realistic impact of his bill if approved. In columns three and four, Districts designated with a dash (-) would not see a change in funding IF the adequacy grant is provided.

Sandack Signs “It Can Wait Pledge”
Last Monday I joined students from Downers Grove South High School in taking a pledge against distracted driving as part of the AT&T “It Can Wait” movement. Research shows that seven in ten people engage in smartphone activities while driving. People are doing much more than texting from behind the wheel. To drive home the message and these new findings, AT&T featured a virtual reality simulator to allow the students to safely experience the danger of taking their eyes off the road and look at a phone.

It_Can_Wait2“It Can Wait” is a national movement urging drivers to visit the “It Can Wait” web site. On the site, anyone can pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phone. Then, they can share their pledge via Twitter (#ItCanWait) and Facebook. The campaign started by focusing on not texting and driving. It has now expanded to the broader dangers of smartphone use behind the wheel. I would encourage everyone who uses a cell phone to download the “attdrivemode” app. This is a free safe driving app that helps prevent distractions while driving by silencing incoming alerts. The app activates when a vehicle’s speed reaches 15 mph and deactivates when speed drops below 15 mph for an extended period of time.

House Speaker Quick to File Suit Against Fair Maps Project
A citizen-initiated measure continued to move forward last week to change the way the State draws legislative maps to elect future members of the Illinois House and Senate. Circulators of petitions for the Independent Map Amendment turned in 65,000 pages of voter petition signatures to the Illinois State Board of Elections to get a “Fair Map” amendment on the Illinois ballot in November. If the signatures and amendment are accepted by the State Board of Elections and the courts, Illinois voters will face a ballot question on whether to amend the state Constitution. The amendment, if adopted, will create an independent commission to draw future district maps for Illinois legislators. The next mapmaking cycle will follow release of the numbers generated by the 2020 census.

Litigation against the Independent Map Amendment was filed by allies of Democratic Party Chairman and House Speaker Michael Madigan immediately after these petitions were turned in. Challenges to the amendment can question either the wording of the amendment, the signatures turned in to qualify the amendment for the November 2016 ballot, or both. Independent Map Amendment, an Illinois citizens’ organization, believes it has gathered enough signatures and that it has written a legally valid amendment that will withstand court scrutiny. Constitutional amendments, to be adopted by the voters, must get either a simple majority of the entire voting electorate or a special three-fifths majority of those voting on the question. The Independent Map Amendment would superseded the current Illinois law that allows these key maps to be drawn by politicians and well-paid political consultants.

The University of Illinois and Illinois State University Announce New Entrepreneurship Pact
The intergovernmental agreement will match the Office of Technology Management, a unit of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Illinois State University (ISU). Both offices have sought to serve as launching pads for innovative technologies and solutions generated through intellectual property. The agreement was announced on Wednesday, May 11.

The University of Illinois system is one of the nation’s leaders in applied research and development. The U of I system notched 299 patent applications and 97 patents granted in fiscal year 2015. During the same period, persons and firms affiliated with the U of I system granted 83 intellectual-property licenses and founded 15 new start-up companies. ISU believes that this week’s agreement will enable its researchers to gain access to some of the infrastructure utilized at UIUC to foster the development of intellectual property.

State Police Say Scammers are Impersonating Police
Scam phone calls by people impersonating the Illinois State Police are being reported by Illinois residents. In some cases, the misleading phone calls ask for monetary donations, warn the listener there is a warrant for their arrest, or both. The State Police, which issued a public warning of the scam phone calls on Wednesday, May 11, states that the police force will never use telephone wires to solicit money for any reason. They advise anyone who is a recipient of a call of this type to contact the consumer fraud hotline of the Office of the Attorney General. At the Office’s Springfield headquarters, this number is (800) 243-0618. The parallel Chicago number is (800) 386-5438.

Upcoming Events in District 81
Mark your calendar for a full summer and fall of free community outreach events that will be sponsored by my office.

  • June 4: Children’s Safety Expo, 9:00 AM until noon, Lakeview Junior High School, 701 Plainfield Road in Downers Grove. This event will feature over 40 participants with demonstrations throughout the morning. Back by popular demand will be the Traveling World of Reptiles show at 10:00 AM and a Touch-A-Truck area where children can see and touch about 25 different vehicles, including police squad cars, ambulances, a SWAT vehicle and several large trucks and utility vehicles. A medical helicopter will be part of the display from 9:30-11:30 AM.
  • June 21: Senior Fair: 10 AM until noon, Lincoln Center Gymnasium, 935 Maple Avenue, Downers Grove
  • August 6: Document Shredding Event
  • August 13: Understanding and Challenging your Property Tax Assessment
  • August 31: Jobs Fair
  • September 10: Veterans Fair

Please call my Downers Grove office at (630) 737-0504 or visit to learn more about these and other events that could be added to the schedule.


Ron Sandack