SB 16 impact could be devastating for area education funds
Proposed legislation working its way through the Illinois General Assembly will, if passed, result in damaging and potentially devastating financial losses for Stagg, Sandburg and Andrew High Schools, Consolidated High School District 230 board members were told at its meeting last week.
Plus, schools from other districts in the area could feel the punch as well.
Senate Bill 16, already passed by the State Senate and soon to be considered by the House of Representatives, will alter the formula used to distribute state education funds in such a way that downstate districts, as well as Chicago, will see annual increases, but suburban districts will be unfairly squeezed, said Hickory Hills resident Debbie Chafee.
“This is a very serious issue,” said Chafee, a mother of two children attending schools in the North Palos District 117. “This bill does not add any more money to what the state currently provides for education. Instead, it re-distributes the money, so the small pie that’s there gets sliced in a different way—and the suburban school districts will take a very significant hit, if this legislation is passed as is.”
Chafee said an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) analysis shows that District 230 will lose up to $7 million a year in state funding under the proposed plan. Combined with its public-school feeder districts, local school will lose up to $23 million a year, Chafee told the board.
“For North Palos, that’s a loss of 14 percent of our budget, which will mean cutting a large portion of our staff,” Chafee continued. “So on top of what you guys would be feeling [in District 230], the reality is, the kids that coming into your school district are not going to be as prepared as we’ve been able to prepare them in the past.”
The analysis can be found on the ISBE website, as well as on the home page of edgeIllinois.com, the website that of Everyone Deserves a Great Education in Illinois, an ad hoc group formed to sound the alarm about SB 16 and rally voters to oppose the measure.
Chafee added that with no new state funding, the change in the current funding formula results in “pitting school districts against each other, and that results in winners and losers.”
Dems vs. GOP
Political support for SB 16 has mostly fallen along partisan lines, with support from Chicago and downstate Democrats and opposition from suburban Republicans—although Chafee noted that 18th District State Senator Bill Cunningham, a Chicago Democrat whose district includes a number of suburbs, broke ranks to vote against the measure.
SB 16’s primary sponsor is State Senator Andy Munar, a freshman Democrat from Central Illinois and teacher by training.
Munar has said that SB 16, also known as the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, is designed to fix Illinois’ “outdated school funding system and recommend changes to the system to better reflect students’ needs.”
“The current funding formula, unchanged since 1997, only distributes 44 cents for every $1 invested in education on the basis of district need,” Munar states on his website. “The other 56 cents is distributed to schools through archaic and complicated grants, not based on need.
“Under the new funding system, 92 cents of every $1 invested by the State in the K-12 education system, with the exception of funds for early childhood education, construction projects and high-cost special education, would flow through a single funding formula that provides a simple, straight-forward and equitable means to distribute education funds for Illinois school districts.
“Illinois has the second-most inequitable school funding system in the nation, and that funding system is doing a disservice to taxpayers, school districts and, most importantly, our children. The funding system we are proposing will better address student needs, such as socio-economic background, language ability or special learning needs, while also accounting for a school district’s ability to raise funds locally.”
Chafee identified what she calls 10 “red flags” relating to SB 16, some of which are that the change in funding formula:
+ penalizes school districts located in counties that limit annual property tax increases.
+ takes away most state aid from districts with high percentages of at-risk students.
+ does not take into account if a school district has been fiscally responsible and has already made funding cuts.
+ will have a negative impact on students whose first language is not English.
+ will have a negative impact on students with special needs.
+ may be modified to shift pension burdens to local property owners.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Langert, the district’s chief financial officer, used terms like “confusing” and “misguided” and “unprecedented” to describe the proposed state funding shift “where half the school districts are losing a considerable amount of funding and half are gaining.”
Board President Rick Nogal expressed exasperation with the proposed legislation and asked Langert why the measure is supported by the Illinois State Board of Education.
Langert appeared to struggle for an answer, acknowledging that there have been wide disparities in education resources, from district to district, across the state. He praised the ISBE for trying to address the issue, but said that the current proposal “misses the mark” by a wide margin.
While the board did not formally oppose SB 16, Nogal said that the district will soon send out a letter to all parents, informing them of the proposed legislation and its projected negative impact on the district and encouraging them to contact their state representatives to weigh in with an opinion.
Nogal said the board also may sponsor a public forum on the matter in the weeks ahead, most likely just after the Nov. 4 general election but before January, when the House is expected to vote on the matter.