Education Funding Reform Bill Sent To Governor Rauner

School District 163 average property tax bill, education funding reform
A breakdown of the average property tax bill for Park Forest residents of School District 163 shows that 55% of taxes collected go to school districts. (Park Forest 2017-2018 Budget)

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan issued a statement Monday expressing his willingness to work with Republicans toward education funding reform. Legislation, Senate Bill 1 (SB1), was sent to Governor Bruce Rauner for his signature on Monday, July 31.

Education funding reform has been an elusive goal of many in the Chicagoland suburbs, but not always a high priority of Chicago, or downstate legislators. SB1 passed the state Senate and House, “the first crack legislators have made at fixing that formula since the commission’s sunset earlier this year,” according to Chicago Tonight. “The Democrat-backed bill follows an evidence-based model that would increase state funding to every public school district in the state.”

Park Forest residents living in Park Forest-Chicago Heights School District 163, which represents the majority of the Village, pay an average 55% of their property taxes to schools.

A July 2017 article at Forbes.com shows that Dr. Joyce Carmine, superintendent of SD 163, draws a salary of $398,229 annually. An  interactive mapping tool, (search by ZIP code) reveals “the 63,000 Illinois public employees who earn more than $100,000 and cost taxpayers $10 billion.”

The governor had threatened to veto it because it provides $215 million for a Chicago Public Schools pension payment and a $250 million block grant to CPS, exhibiting behavior that the group Do Your Job calls “bizarre.” A press release from Do Your Job can be found at Rich Miller’s CapitolFax.com:

As Senate Bill 1 heads to Governor Rauner’s desk, Do Your Job, Inc. is asking him to get a grip, do his job and sign the bill.

After decades of talks around reforming the state’s education formula, Senate Bill 1 is the only bill to have passed the legislature. The bill is endorsed by editorial boards, community partners, school districts and school superintendents across the state. By vetoing the bill, Governor Rauner will put the funding of our schools in jeopardy.

In the past, Governor Rauner has recognized the need for a more equitable education funding formula.

According the Illinois Policy Institute, Governor Rauner said the following in his 2017 State of the State Address:

    For years, Illinois has provided the lowest percentage of education financial support from any state in the country. And we have the largest gap between funding for high income schools and low income schools in the country, both across the state and within the city of Chicago.

This June, the SJ-R ran a piece entitled “Purvis: Rauner likes 90% of school funding reform bill but will veto” where the lede was:

    Gov. Bruce Rauner’s education adviser, Beth Purvis, said the governor supports 90 percent of the education funding reform bill that was passed by the legislature this spring, but would still veto it because it is too generous to Chicago Public Schools.

On July 17th, Governor Rauner reiterated the value of SB 1 on his twitter page:

    Lawmakers should send education funding bill SB1 to my desk immediately. This helps public schools in IL get equitable and adequate funding.

But Governor Rauner’s actions have gotten even more bizarre during the Governor’s not-so-special session.

He hasn’t disclosed legislative language for the Illinois General Assembly to act on.

He’s refused to meet with Senate President Cullerton or Senate Bill 1’s sponsors in the House and Senate. In fact, he’s called the Senate President’s desire to negotiate an “outrageous” demand. (After all, Governor Rauner is on the record saying: Nobody tells me what my policies are, nobody.)

And a day later, in a move which we can only assume can be attributed to Rauner’s “unhealthy obsession with media and messaging” as a Sun-Times source called it, Rauner created a working group which has yet to produce a legislative alternative which can pass the General Assembly.

The ad, entitled “Lost It” will run on digital platforms and can be viewed here and contains the following narration:

    • After a three-year budget crisis, Rauner alone wanted to take the state over the cliff.
      Republicans and Democrats worked together to solve the problem without him.
      Then, Rauner fired his professional staff and replaced them with some questionable characters.
      And now he’s stoking a school crisis, threatening to veto a new funding formula educators support, and his own education secretary said has 90 percent of what Rauner likes.
    • Serious people are questioning whether Governor Rauner has lost it.
      Governor Rauner, get a grip. Do your job.

Do Your Job, Inc. is led by IL Sen. Mike E. Hastings of South Suburban Cook County, IL Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie and Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan.

CPS is the only district in the state paying its own pensions.

Speaker Madigan said, “House Democrats will continue to reach across the aisle and work with legislative Republicans in order to enact bipartisan education funding reform. Every child in Illinois deserves a great education, but too many are being held back by one of the most unfair funding formulas in the country, and the reform we need is being held back by a governor who is determined to pit one child against another for political gain.”

“Democrats know that many legislative Republicans share our commitment to fair funding for all schools,” Madigan continued. “We will work together on behalf of our children, our schools and our communities, even if the governor continues to choose chaos over compromise.”

Governor Bruce Rauner formed a commission to study the issue last year. The commission last met on February 1, 2017.

According to a June report from Chicago Tonight:

Illinois currently employs the least equitable education funding system in the country, coming in last place among all states in the amount of state funding contributed to its public schools. And because education funding is built primarily on local property taxes, it also sports the nation’s largest gap between its wealthy and poor school districts.

Last year, Gov. Bruce Rauner convened a 25-member funding reform commission led by Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Tony Smith and state Secretary of Education Beth Purvis in an attempt to find a new formula.

SB1 “provides for an evidence-based funding formula beginning with the 2017-2018 school year,” the bill’s synopsis says.  It “sets forth provisions concerning an adequacy target calculation, a local capacity calculation, a base funding minimum calculation, a percent of adequacy and final resources calculation, an evidence-based funding formula distribution system, State Superintendent of Education administration of funding and school district submission requirements, and a Professional Review Panel.”

The next move is with the governor.