Submitted by Illinois State Representative Ron Sandack.
Illinois lawmakers are witnessing the Springfield version of the movie “Groundhog Day.” Every year at this time Democrat Senator Andy Manar emerges with his latest version of what he calls school funding reform and every year it’s the same thing- a massive shift of funds away from suburban schools and toward Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and some downstate schools. In this latest version, 2/3 of Illinois schools lose state funding.
This week Senator Manar gained Senate approval of his newest bill, SB 231, which is eerily similar to last year’s SB 1 and to SB 16 from the year before that. Once again, almost every suburban school district loses valuable state funding dollars. Only this time, his bill also includes a massive bailout for CPS to the tune of a $175 million in additional funding and $205 million to rescue a failing pension system for CPS teachers. Keep in mind, the new $380 million is on top of the $367 million in CPS-specific grants that only they receive. The bill sponsor suggests this will create parity between school districts. It’s laughable.
Manar claims he is softening the blow by including a four year phase-down of funds suburban schools will forfeit. Done in 25% increments, this “hold-harmless” clause is supposed to make us feel better about sending an even larger chunk of our hard-earned tax dollars away from our local districts and towards CPS, which today spends more than double the state average per pupil on educating kids yet still has a dropout rate that is 150% higher than the state average.
SB 231 includes no reforms to force CPS do be more efficient and produce better results. It includes no relief from costly unfunded mandates that are burdening schools statewide. It is a blatant attack on suburban taxpayers who have invested in their local schools. The exact impact of the latest version of his bill on District 81 Schools is as follows:
In this latest proposal, 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.
This detrimental bill has now arrived in the House for our consideration. I will keep you informed about the progress of SB 231 and let you know who you can contact to voice your objections once the bill is assigned to a substantive committee.