In an interview earlier this [month, Illinois] Senate President John Cullerton gave school districts around the state ample reason to be nervous when he said, “I don’t think any schools should be funded until Chicago schools are funded fairly.”
Now, Republicans fear legislative Democrats plan to hold funding for downstate and suburban schools hostage in an attempt to bail out Chicago Public Schools with nearly $500 million in additional funding.
CPS currently faces a $480 million budget shortfall, and is looking for the state to pick up the tab.
We cannot bridge the gap for the ailing CPS at the expense of downstate and suburban communities, and they certainly should not be held hostage.
I have long advocated education funding reform that leads to funding equity in all regions of the state. An honest, objective review of how we divide up our precious education resources is long overdue. Illinois currently uses outdated funding formulas that date back to the 1970s.
Manipulations of those formulas have also led to a windfall to Chicago Public Schools – at the expense of downstate and suburban districts.
A recent report from the Illinois State Board of Education revealed during the 2014-15 school year, CPS received $256 million more from a special education block grant than they would have if they were treated like every other school in the state. The report said: “CPS received $475 million from FY 15 and FY 16 appropriations. CPS would have received $219 million had the district been reimbursed in the same manner as other districts.”
CPS serves only about 19 percent of the state’s student population, yet it receives around 36 percent of the combined statewide appropriations for special education; free lunch and breakfast programs; low-income students; [and] early childhood education – and through a windfall from the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax and the PTELL adjustment. In the 2015-16 school year, Chicago Public Schools’ overall funding for these six grant lines provides $565 million more than CPS would receive if funding was consistent with student enrollment.
It’s time to look at school funding – and the components that go into it – but not if the only goal is to funnel more money to Chicago at the expense of our schools and taxpayers. And our schools must not be held hostage waiting for Chicago to get its financial house in order.
Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, is the Illinois Senate Republican Leader.