School districts across the state will be nervously watching Senate President John Cullerton’s next move after he told WBEZ this week, “I don’t think any school should be funded until Chicago schools are funded fairly.”
Republicans fear legislative Democrats plan to hold hostage funding for downstate and suburban schools in an attempt to bail-out Chicago Public Schools with nearly $500 million in additional funding.
President Cullerton has proposed a state bailout of Chicago Public Schools, which are facing a $480 million budget shortfall. Senate GOP lawmakers have stressed that they will not bridge the gap for the ailing school system at the expense of downstate and suburban communities.
Senate GOP legislators pointed out that Chicago schools already benefit from sweetheart deals that suburban and downstate schools don’t receive.
A recent report from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) confirmed serious inequities exist in the state’s system of education funding, which Senate Republicans first highlighted in a 2013 report. According to ISBE, during the 2014-2015 school year, Chicago Public Schools received $256 million more from a special block grant than they would have if they were treated like every other school district in the state.
According to the report, “CPS received $474,870,400 from FY 15 and FY 16 appropriations….CPS would have received $219,301,959 had the district been reimbursed in the same manner as other districts.”
When looking at Chicago Public Schools enrollment numbers, despite only serving about 19 percent of the state’s student population, CPS receives approximately 36 percent of the combined statewide appropriations for special education; free lunch and breakfast programs; low-income students; early childhood education; and through a windfall from the Corporate Personal Property Replacement Tax and the PTELL adjustment.
In the 2015-2016 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.