Ralph Martire: ISBE’s provocative funding request



According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “provocative” means: “serving to arouse a needed stimulus for action.” It’s no secret the media is constantly on the hunt for provocative material. What’s also no secret is the media tends to focus on items that are provocative because they’re divisive, racist or otherwise polarizing. Which explains why they whiffed on covering the Illinois State Board of Education’s K-12 funding request for next year — which calls for the state to invest $13.9 billion in educating Illinois’ school children — or more than double what was passed into law for this year, FY2018.

Now that’s provocative. The media missed it, however, because it isn’t provocative due to its negativity or its capacity to polarize. Rather, ISBE’s funding request is provocative because of its inherent rationality and capacity “to stimulate action” for the common good.

Understanding why that’s the case requires a brief overview of the historic change to Illinois’ school funding formula that became law last August.

Known as the “Evidence Based Model” or “EBM,” Illinois’ new formula represents the best practice in school funding for one simple reason: It ties the amount taxpayers invest in schools to those educational practices that the research shows actually enhance student academic achievement.

As ISBE notes, the EBM creates an “Adequacy Target” of resources based on 34 cost factors, adjusted by formula to account for the individualized needs of school districts statewide — which is crucial, given the incredibly diverse student population they serve.

This represents a marked improvement over Illinois’ prior “foundation formula,” which wasn’t based on any evidence or any actual costs of educating students.

Instead, decision makers set an arbitrary, statewide dollar amount of per-student school funding, predicated not on what it takes to educate kids, but rather on what state government could afford. Given Illinois’ enormous fiscal problems, it’s no wonder the old system was woefully inadequate. Worse, consistently inadequate state funding over time pushed the primary obligation to fund schools down to local property taxes, creating one of the most inequitable systems in America.

Charged with making a funding recommendation under the new EBM for next year, ISBE engaged in an entirely rational, data-based analysis.

First, it calibrated how far from satisfying the evidenced-based Adequacy Target of each school district current K-12 funding levels are. Next, ISBE noted that the Evidence Based Model includes only state and local resources invested in K-12, not federal funding.

Since the feds cover around 10 percent of K-12 education costs, ISBE reduced what had to be funded under the EBM accordingly, to cover just 90 percent of the shortfall between what the evidence shows is needed and current funding levels.

Finally, ISBE cited Illinois’ consistent failure to fulfill the constitutional imperative that the state assume the “primary responsibility for financing the system of public education” as the core reason for the significant over-reliance on local property taxes that has created the highly inequitable system Illinois has today. How inequitable? Well, ISBE’s preliminary calculations show Illinois school districts range from having only 46 percent of the resources the evidence indicate are needed to educate the students they serve to having 284 percent.

That’s quite the gap, which ISBE correctly concludes can’t be filled equitably unless the state covers the difference.

And while the price tag is significant, the evidence also shows it’s worth it from an economic standpoint.

For instance, research shows that every dollar spent on education returns $5.37 to a state’s economy. Moreover, the Federal Reserve found states with the best high school graduation rates had the highest per capita incomes. Research further indicates gaining a 90 percent graduation rate for students of color could grow Illinois’ economy by $264 million more annually. Yep, ISBE’s recommendation is provocative alright — but hopefully it provides the impetus for lawmakers to fund the EBM fully — given it’s rational, based on the evidence of what works, and promotes the public good.

Ralph Martire is executive director of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, a bipartisan fiscal policy think tank. He can be reached at rmartire@ctbaonline.org.

Ralph Martire: ISBE’s provocative funding request

Gov. Bruce Rauner visits annual Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber awards gala


LAKEWOOD – More than 100 members of the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber of Commerce cheered as Gov. Bruce Rauner and his wife, Diana Rauner, walked into the Chamber’s annual awards gala Saturday night at Turnberry Country Club, 9600 Turnberry Trail.

In his brief acknowledgment of the business awards finalists, Rauner said that Illinois has every reason to thrive, but he said high taxes and “lots of regulations” are holding back businesses in the state.

“My No. 1 priority is to make sure that we’re helping you thrive and build your business by rolling back the regulations and cutting the taxes so you can be prosperous and boom and grow, and create a lot of good-paying jobs in the state of Illinois,” Rauner said.

Rauner said the state has challenges, such as funding state pensions and education, but he told business community members that the state’s challenges can be overcome with strong economic growth.

“Higher family incomes, greater prosperity, [a] better future for our children and grandchildren … every challenge we face comes through greater economic opportunity,” Rauner said.

Rauner said he is committed to rolling income tax back to 3 percent and helping business owners bring down property taxes by reducing mandates in Springfield.

“You control your own governments – your city governments, your villages, your municipalities, your townships – you run them; don’t let Springfield tell you how to run them,” Rauner said. “You run them yourself, and we will give you the power through a simple referendum to control your property tax levy.”

Lake in the Hills Village President Russ Ruzanski said he appreciates that the Rauners stopped at the event when they easily could have been anywhere else on a Saturday evening.

“That shows respect for everybody that is here and, in turn, I think he earns a lot of respect from the people who are here,” Ruzanski said.

After his speech, Rauner said he makes a point to go out of his way to meet small business owners and do what he can to make sure they succeed and help Illinois succeed as a whole.

“What I do is listen to them,” Rauner said. “What regulations are getting in their way? What regulations can we get rid of so that it makes it easier for them to grow, and what taxes are the most difficult for them so we can try to cut those taxes to make them more competitive and grow?”

Rauner said he has a connection with McHenry County because his godparents live in Algonquin. He said he decided to stop by the event because he was attending an event in Rolling Meadows earlier in the day.

Katrina McGuire, executive director for the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber, said all state representatives and leaders in local government get an invite to the gala every year.

She said 1,300 public votes were cast for the awards for local businesses that are part of the Chamber.


New Chamber Member Business winner

Butcher on the Block

Club/Organization winner

​Algonquin Area Public Library

Hospitality/Food/Entertainment winner

​Scorched Earth Brewing Co.

Large Business winner

​Algonquin Bank and Trust

Home Office winner

​Crystal Lake Engraving – Dawn Gilman

Retail winner

​Costco Wholesale

Personal/Home Services winner

​Clarendale of Algonquin

Professional Services winner

​Diamond Physical Therapy

Volunteer of the Year

Rich Peril of RVG Real Estate Services

Board Member of the Year

Russell Farnum of the village of Algonquin

Gov. Bruce Rauner visits annual Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Chamber awards gala

All Kids Audit


A state representative wants to end the practice of Illinois taxpayers picking up the tab for the healthcare of illegal immigrant children.


Illinois’ ALL KIDS program, which begin in 2006, expanded the KidCare program to cover all uninsured children not previously covered whose family income was greater than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. That expansion included all undocumented immigrant children.


“We were told that when that bill passed there was no provision in there that would prevent that from happening,” state Rep. David Reis, R-Willow Hill, said. “I didn’t support it then and I don’t support it now.”


Click here for summary


The overall cost of the program in fiscal 2016 was $97.2 million. A recent Illinois Auditor General audit showed taxpayers in the Land of Lincoln spent more than a third, or $38 million, on illegal immigrant children for ALL KIDS in that fiscal year.


Reis said the total over eight years is more than $390 million. He has legislation that would stop the practice altogether because he says the state’s resources are so limited.


“So much of our budget is what I call hard, fixed costs,” Reis said. “So pension payments, and long-term debt payments, and real Medicaid payments, so there’s not much left to cut. So let’s go after the entitlements … We should be taking care of our own citizens.”


The AG’s report published in December also found the departments of Health and Family Services and Human Services did not identify the correct citizenship status for more than 4,500 recipients, which led to the state losing out on $2.4 million in matching federal tax dollars. An additional $2.8 million in federal reimbursement was lost the prior year, making the total federal match the state missed out on $5.2 million.


“The feds may be cutting back on that and watching that a lot more closely than the prior administration did as well,” Reis said. “But there again, we should be paying Medicaid bills where we can get federal match and not funding a program that’s not recognized by the feds, which costs us double.”


Other AG findings included nearly 160 ALL KIDS recipients getting more than 790 services after the month of their 19th birthday for more than $110,000. There were also nearly 440 individuals who appeared to be enrolled with more than one ID number.


The AG’s report said it’s five recommendations from the fiscal 2015 audit were repeated for fiscal 2016. Those included ensuring annual redetermination of eligibility and identifying the correct citizenship status for recipients that leads to loss of federal dollars.


(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)

All Kids Audit

Still pumped for Trump in Southern Illinois: One year in, local voters voice support for president


On the day of President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration — Jan. 20, 2017 — The Southern Illinoisan the stories of two Trump supporters, Wes Henson and Charles Mason.

After one year, Henson, of Carterville, and Mason, of Pomona, both still support the president.

Henson says people either like or dislike the president, and that there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

“People who like him like him,” Henson said. “People who don’t like him don’t like him.”

While Henson understands that people do not like the president, he says the president’s detractors are “over the top.”

“If you don’t like Trump, you don’t have to be rude,” Henson said.

He says President Trump is doing a good job, especially with the economy. The country has the lowest unemployment rates in years and the stock market is above 26,000. Since the tax bill passed, several corporations have announced they will give workers bonuses.

“On the world stage, ISIS has just about been defeated,” Henson said. “Trump has done more in less than one year what previous presidents could not do in four years. If you look at accomplishments, Trump has done more than Obama or even Bush.”

Mason echoed those thoughts.

“I still support him — more than I did then,” Mason said.

He added that the president has had a lot of successes, including the “bit tax cut.”

“Like (Friday), he spoke at the pro-life march and no president has ever done that,” Mason said.

Mason said the president is bringing money back to states and corporations are giving bonuses.

“It’s better all the way around,” Mason said.

In spite of these successes, Henson does not like the president’s personality.

“Politics is like children in a sandbox kicking sand at each other,” Henson said.

Both men would like to see more bipartisan cooperation, as well as both parties working better with the president.

“It would be a wonderful thing to have all them work together,” Mason said. “It would be five times better.”

More specifically, Henson would like to see bipartisan cooperation on issues like health care and immigration.

“I think ‘Obamacare’ should have been voted out. If our representatives in Congress had done that, it would be over. Something bi-party could replace it,” Henson said. “It has to be both parties coming together — that’s the job of Congress, not the president.”

Henson added that a few years ago that Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, were advocating for some kind of wall. Now they are against it.

Henson added that immigration issues are connected to wages. The less people available to do work, the higher the wages will be for that work. Henson believes those lower wages are a byproduct of illegal immigrants being in the U.S. However, he is not in favor of sending people back.

“Instead of Congress being upset, they need to pass the laws that tell us what immigration should be,” Henson said.

One of the things that led Southern Illinoisan reporter Molly Stephens to interview Mason in 2017 was his signs. He had two homemade signs in his yard declaring his support of Trump and dislike of Hillary Clinton.

He chuckled as he said his sign that reads “Lock her up and drain the swamp” is still up at his Pomona home.

“He’s draining the swamp, and he will do a lot more,” Mason said. “I think they will get Hillary before they are done, and I hope they do.”

But, what about the president’s tweets?

“The way he words things sometimes is very crass or rude,” Henson said. “I wish he was a little more tactful in the way he goes about some things.”

Henson added that tweeting is the one way the president has to get his message out unfiltered by mainstream media.

Mason does not care about media reports or the opinions of lobbyists.

“I like his tweets. At least he can get if off his chest that way,” Mason said. “That’s why we are a free country.”

Mason believes a lot of other people share his feelings.

Henson says tweeting is a way to adapt to new technology, and Trump is not the first president to do so. He cited the now-infamous televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s fireside chats on evening radio as examples.

Henson said the 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week news cycle has changed the information that comes through traditional and social media.

“You hear things immediately, but sometimes before it been fact-checked,” Henson said.

Mason said Trump would be re-elected if he ran tomorrow, and expects that support to show up in the polls in the November mid-term election.

“I’ve talked to a few people who have said Trump was a lot better than they thought he would be,” Mason said. “He’s up front with people, and he’s for the U.S. and for people.”

Still pumped for Trump in Southern Illinois: One year in, local voters voice support for president

SWEET: Will Women’s March spur Democratic turnout in mid-term elections?


The bottom political line: Will the Women’s March in Chicago and other cities this weekend make a difference in this election year?

“I think people will be running to the polls in numbers like we’ve never seen,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told me when we talked behind the stage at the Grant Park rally that preceded a march to the Loop.

Madigan was with her teen daughter, Rebecca, who was holding a hand-painted sign that said “Resist” with three clenched fists.

I last saw the mother/daughter duo at the Democratic National Convention in 2016 – happier times for them – where they cheerfully posed in front of a Hillary Clinton sign.


The first Women’s March in 2017 was a surprising mass mobilization of women across the country demonstrating – somewhat unstructured – the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan marched with her daughter, Rebecca. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

The 2018 marches came on Trump’s first anniversary in office, hours after the start of a federal government shutdown and in the wake of the newly spawned “MeToo” movement calling attention to sexual harassment in the workplace.

Maybe Republicans in the Chicago area and across the nation are as motivated as Democrats right now; if they are, show me where they are marching.

The march in Chicago was a Democratic organizing exercise, with Democrats on stage. The goal was summarized in this pithy sign I spotted: “Grab ’em by the Midterms” — a play on Trump’s bragging that his celebrity allowed him to grab women “by the pussy.”

The bigger funders for Women’s March Chicago — disclosed on the group’s website — include Democratic-allied labor unions SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana; SEIU Local 73; SEIU Local 1; the Chicago Federation of Labor, and ATU Local 308. They also include Democratic gubernatorial primary contender J.B. Pritzker and the anti-Trump group “Need to Impeach,” bankrolled by Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic activist who was a speaker at the Chicago march. The CFL and SEIU Local 1 are among a group of labor unions which hold ownership stakes in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago City Clerk Anna Valencia talks to Tom Steyer, billionaire Democratic activist. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

Voting histories for both parties show voters drop-off in mid-term elections.

If Democrats in heavily blue Illinois can leverage the anti-Trump/sexual harassment outrage visible at the march, it spells trouble for Illinois Republicans in 2018.

I asked City Clerk Anna Valencia who the target demographic is. She replied: “a lot of millennials … Even my own Latinas. We have to get out there.”

Steyer said he planned to spend $30 million for mid-term turnout programs, focusing on non-voters, age 35-and-under.

Backstage, Steyer — who’s raising his profile to give himself a 2020 presidential option — told me: “We’re going to be organizing and engaging them to try and get them to turn out.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told me when it comes to energizing mid-term voters, “I think we will see a lot of energy and enthusiasm among women and particularly people of color in this cycle.”

Cook County Commissioner Bridge Gainer. | Lynn Sweet/Sun-Times

An important aspect of these women’s marches – something that crosses party lines – is the push to get more women into elected office.

Illinois has a lousy record. Only nine women, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, have held statewide elected office in Illinois since it became a state in 1818. I’ll add to that the two females elected to the U.S. Senate.

Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told me when we chatted backstage that she hoped the march is “energizing women to assume seats of power because that is where the real long-lasting change will happen.”

Said Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who founded the “Cause the Effect” political action committee to get more women to run: “Women like to feel encouraged and supported to run. They don’t want to feel like they are out there on their own.”

SWEET: Will Women’s March spur Democratic turnout in mid-term elections?

Mike Madigan speaks in Ottawa, predicts success for dems in general election


OTTAWA — If to be early is to be on time, Mike Madigan was prompt for Saturday’s Illinois Valley Federation of Labor Third Biennial Labor Summit held at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Ottawa.

The state speaker of the house and keynote speaker at the summit took to the dais about an hour earlier than scheduled. This caused an intermission in a presentation by Robert Bruno, professor at University of Illinois at Chicago, while Madigan delivered a well-received speech to a largely democratic crowd.

Madigan’s remarks celebrated modern democratic principles he traced back to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, rebuked Gov. Bruce Rauner and predicted success for democrats in the upcoming general elections.

Read more in The NewsTribune


Mike Madigan speaks in Ottawa, predicts success for dems in general election

Editorial: Daiber, Marshall and the downstate discontent


Robert Marshall lives in suburban Burr Ridge while Bob Daiber lives 255 miles away in downstate Marine.

But each of them senses the same thing: that the regional divisions in Illinois run extremely wide.

In fact, both Marshall and Daiber have built their campaigns for the Democratic nomination for governor largely around that premise.

Marshall would respond to that division by more or less living with it. His campaign platform is centered on the quixotic idea of slicing Illinois into three or maybe even four states. Chicago would be one. The Chicago suburbs would be another. And downstate would be one or two more.

We’re not going to beat around the bush. As likable as Marshall seems to be, we think his idea of subdividing Illinois into smaller states is goofy and impractical.

But some people do not dismiss it so reflexively. In fact, Marshall claims that once he gets outside the Chicago metropolitan area, his proposal meets with considerable positive response.

Daiber doesn’t just see these same divisions. As a downstater himself, he has grown up with an understanding of how disregarded and disenchanted those in rural Illinois feel.

“They feel forgotten,” he says.

He says he’s running for governor to bring Illinois together and he says only a downstate governor who’s open to compromise and working across the aisle can do so.

This is, in many respects, a convenient argument for Daiber to make. Out of six Democrats and two Republicans running, he is, after all, the only downstater.

But there’s a ring of at least some truth in it too.

To some degree, the relationship between urban and rural America is like the relationship between Cubs and White Sox fans. We speak in generalities here, of course, but White Sox fans see their team as always playing second fiddle to the Cubs, and because of that, they tend to have a chip on their shoulders. Whereas, with the Cubs being in the dominant market position, their fans don’t think about the White Sox much at all.

Likewise, rural America feels its views, needs and values are subordinated and disrespected by urban America while, truth be told, urban America doesn’t think much about rural America and when it does, it’s often with a sense of superiority.

How do we heal these divisions? That’s no easy task.

They won’t be healed by drawing lines on a map. And the election of rural candidates would probably go only so far.

Ultimately, we can only heal them if we all try to listen. Why does that seem to be so hard?

Editorial: Daiber, Marshall and the downstate discontent