ISBE: Nearly all Illinois school districts would receive more state funding under Rauner reform plan

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ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK

More than 97.5 percent of Illinois schools receive more state dollars under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amended funding reform plan than they would under Democrats’ plan in Senate Bill 1, according to an analysis by the independent State Board of Education.

Forty-four school districts receive more than $1 million more under Rauner’s plan, and the 3 percent of school districts that receive less money under Rauner’s plan still receive more than they did last year, ISBE’s review found.

Released Saturday to the governor’s office and majority Democrats in the General Assembly, the ISBE analysis was conducted after Rauner vetoed SB1 to remove more than $120 million in additional annual funding for Chicago Public Schools to bail out its failing pension system and to more accurately reflect how the funding reform formula calculates district wealth.

“This is what equity and fairness in education funding looks like,” Rauner said in a statement released late Saturday afternoon. “Improving Illinois’ education system has been my top priority as governor. I made these changes to Senate Bill 1 because that legislation fails to ensure fairness and equity for all children across Illinois. My changes guarantee that some of our state’s neediest districts will receive significantly more funding.”

Legislative Democrats had yet to respond to ISBE’s analysis as of early Saturday evening.

Among the biggest winners under Rauner’s plan are Elgin School District 46, which receives $12.8 million more under Rauner’s plan; Rockford District 205, which receives $9.5 million more; Plainfield District 202, $7.9 million more; Waukegan District 60, $6.6 million more; Oswego District 308, $5.4 million more; Aurora East Unit District 131, $5.3 million more; Aurora West 129, $4.2 million more; Joliet District 86, $4.1 million more; Valley View District 365, $4 million more, and Peoria District 150, $4 million more.

Other districts receiving more than $2 million in additional state dollars include Cicero District 99, Decatur District 61, Belvidere District 100, Decatur District 61, and Round Lake District 116

Rauner and Republicans have been at odds with the Democrats’ funding reform measure ever since House Speaker Michael Madigan amended it to add about $215 million in additional state tax dollars annually to bail out the CPS’ failing pension system. Before Madigan’s amendment, many Republicans supported the plan, which seeks to create an evidence-based school funding model.

Under the evidence-based model, no school districts would lose funding, but when the state budgets additional money for schools, a complex formula is used to distribute those dollars based on a district’s needs. Poorer districts, essentially, would receive more of the new money than wealthier ones would.

But Rauner disagreed with how the Democrat plan determined which districts were most in need.

Many municipalities across Illinois, especially Chicago, use what are called tax increment finance (TIF) districts to hoard cash in the name of economic development. What TIFs do is freeze taxable property values at a certain level for the duration of the TIF district. Any tax revenue generated above the frozen level does not go to fund intended government services such as schools. 

Though they are intended to provide relief for blighted areas, TIF districts cover many wealthy areas of Chicago, such as LaSalle Street in the Loop, and have been derided by some as essentially being a slush fund for special projects.

The Democrats plan does not include set-aside TIF revenue to calculate a district’s overall wealth. Rauner’s plan does.

Under the Democrats’ plan, taxpayers from school districts with no or very few TIF districts would end up financially supporting districts with many TIF districts. Under Rauner’s plan, that dynamic does not occur.

Democrats have criticized Rauner’s plan ever since his veto, claiming the changes he made would hurt school districts across the state. But they made that claim without clarifying where their own numbers came from. ISBE’s analysis shows 97 percent of Illinois school districts benefit from Rauner’s plan.

Of the 2.5 percent of districts that receive fewer state dollars than the Democrats’ plan, the average reduction in funding is $47,000 annually, not including CPS, though they all receive more money than last year.

CPS receives $242 million less under Rauner’s plan than SB1, but still would get $28 million more in state funding under Rauner’s plan than it did last year. ISBE’s analysis says CPS would receive about $463 million less, but the governor’s office clarified that to say the state would pay about $220 million a year more to Chicago teacher pensions in separate legislation, which would make up the difference.

The state’s Department of Revenue completed its review of data associated with the veto Friday and forwarded the information to ISBE Friday afternoon, Illinois News Network was first to report. ISBE completed its analysis of DOR’s numbers Saturday morning.

The state Senate is scheduled to convene Sunday to take action on Rauner’s veto, possibly even to vote to override. The Senate has a supermajority of Democrats. No Republican votes are needed to override if all Democrats do so. But many Democrats will face a tough decision as many of the schools receiving the largest net revenue gains under Rauner’s plans are in their legislative districts.

If the Senate votes to override, it is sent to the House, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday. House Speaker Michael Madigan does not have a supermajority and would need at least four Republicans to split from Rauner if all Democrats vote to override.

If the Senate overrides and the House does not, the entire bill is killed and lawmakers have to start over.

Complicating things is a so-called “poison pill” that Madigan added to a separate budget bill that says no state funding will be released to any Illinois schools without an evidence-based funding formula in place such as the one contained in SB1. The first payments to schools were scheduled to be made Thursday. They were not sent because of Madigan’s amendment to the budget bill. Many Illinois school districts open next week. Without state funding, some will not be able to stay open for long.

A district by district rundown of ISBE’s analysis can be found here​.

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ISBE: Nearly all Illinois school districts would receive more state funding under Rauner reform plan

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