Downstate and suburban school districts could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in state aid every year under an education funding proposal forced through the Senate May 10 that legislative Republicans said amounts to little more than a 500-page Chicago Public Schools bailout.
Senate Bill 231 takes money away from downstate and suburban school districts, while directing $750 million to Chicago Public Schools. Senate Republicans said they could not support legislation that replaces one flawed education formula with another flawed education funding formula in order to bail out the failing Chicago Public Schools system.
*Click here for details on how Chicago Public Schools will benefit from Senate Bill 231.
During Senate debate, Senate GOP lawmakers noted that though the sponsor of Senate Bill 231 pointed to a “hold harmless” provision in the proposal to keep schools at their fiscal year 2015 funding levels, due to the proration, or intentional cuts to education, that has taken place over the last several years, school districts are “held harmless” to an amount that is $650 million less than they should have received.
Additionally, Republican Senators noted that the hold harmless provision is dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding, and the sponsor has not identified a source to pay for this hold harmless provision. It's also important to note that the provision drops 25 percent every year, meaning that in just four years it will sunset and the General Assembly will be back at the drawing board trying to figure out a new funding formula.
Though everyone agrees that the state's current funding formula is broken, Senate GOP lawmakers say that Senate Bill 231 would only exacerbate the problems. Though the measure just barely passed in the Senate, it now heads to the Illinois House. However, downstate Democrats in the House recently made it clear that the proposal stands little chance of passage in that chamber.
Instead, these same House Democrat lawmakers echoed recent calls by Senate Republicans and Governor Bruce Rauner to fully fund General State Aid for the first time in seven years while lawmakers work with the education community, parents and other stakeholders on developing a new funding formula for education. While that ongoing discussion takes place, the state can offer school districts certainty through immediately passing a K-12 budget that fully funds General State Aid for the first time in seven years, as suggested by Gov. Bruce Rauner and Republican lawmakers.
This would end the practice of proration, or cuts, under which Democrats have given schools less funding than they were supposed to receive. While not a long-term solution, it would ensure schools open in the fall while lawmakers work on a more equitable solution.
Approved by a 31-21-3 vote, Senate Bill 231 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. At this time, the proposal is not expected to advance in the House.