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

Illinois Seeking “Right to Sunscreen”


Illinois could be the next state to guarantee school kids a right to use sunscreen. 

Seven states have right-to-sunscreen laws on their books. The National Conference of State Legislatures said that in 2017, seven more were looking at them.

Illinois is the latest to see a proposed right-to-sunscreen law. State Rep. Margot McDermed, R-Mokena, is the sponsor.

McDermed says as a redhead, she always has sunscreen, and said everyone else should as well. But she said federal rules stop school children from having and using sunscreen, because sunscreen is regulated by the FDA.

Click here for summary

“It’s a federal rule that if something has an FDA ingredient, that students can’t have it without some administrative procedures and some permission,” McDermed said. “It turns out that sunscreen includes ‘FDA ingredients’.”

McDermed’s plan would spell out that school kids can have and use sunscreen, and that if they can’t apply sunscreen themselves that a school employee can volunteer to apply it for them. 

“It is common sense,” McDermed said. “I betcha most parents and many schools and teachers believe that [using sunscreen] is already permitted. And I imagine that many student have sunscreen without knowing that it’s not necessarily permitted.”

McDermed admits the right to sunscreen is not as important as some of Illinois’ other pressing needs, but she said it’s important none the less. 

“Yes, we should have pension reform. Yes, we should have a balanced budget,” McDermed said. “This is very much in the nice-to-have category, as opposed to essential. But I still think it’s a good bill.”

(Copyright WBGZ Radio / www.AltonDailyNews.com)

Illinois Seeking “Right to Sunscreen”

Morning Spin: Even after tax hike, Illinois education board wants double the money


Welcome to Clout Street: Morning Spin, our weekday feature to catch you up with what’s going on in government and politics from Chicago to Springfield. Subscribe here.


The Illinois State Board of Education wants an extra $7.5 billion to pay for schools across the state — an amount that would nearly double what it received last year.

Even the board’s top financial official noted that a request for $15.7 billion far outweighs how much money the state has for its next budget.

After all, the controversial income tax hike approved last year is expected to add $5 billion to Illinois’ revenue, according to the General Assembly’s number-crunching arm. The Board of Education is asking for even more than that. And the state still has a pile of about $9.2 billion in unpaid bills after borrowing money to pay some off.

Countered Robert Wolfe, the education agency’s chief financial officer: “However, as an advocacy organization, and for all the 2 million students across the state of Illinois, this is what adequate looks like.”

Board member Susie Morrison added that it’s “our role as state board members to advocate for each and every child around the state.”

The board signed off on the funding request during a meeting Wednesday. Gov. Bruce Rauner is scheduled to unveil his budget proposal Feb. 14.

The ask comes as the board tries to put in place a new funding formula that seeks to close the education gap between wealthy and poor school districts. Rauner rewrote legislation related to that effort last month, and the board has said if the bill does not become law, nearly 200 school districts may lose out on additional funds they would have been entitled to under the new formula.

The board’s staff said Wednesday that it is waiting to see what lawmakers do when they return to the Capitol this month, but would bring new legislative proposals if necessary. Lawmakers could attempt to override the governor’s veto, pass his amended version or do nothing, in which case the legislation dies. (Bill Lukitsch)

What’s on tap

*Mayor Rahm Emanuel will appear at Crane Medical Prepatory High School to talk about postsecondary education and later make an announcement with JLT Specialty USA.

*Gov. Rauner will talk to reporters after a roundtable discussion on property taxes in south suburban Country Club Hills.

*Secretary of State Jesse White and a traffic safety committee will hold a meeting about proposed impaired driving laws.

*The City Club of Chicago will host a panel about sanctuary cities that includes Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh.

From the notebook

*Newman vs. Lipinski: Democratic U.S. Reps. Luis Gutierrez and Jan Schakowsky took the rare step of endorsing Marie Newman’s primary challenge to their colleague, Rep. Dan Lipinski.

Lipinski, meanwhile, countered with a list of 30 mayors he says are backing his re-election bid.

The dueling endorsements are the latest development in the Southwest Side and southwest suburban 3rd Congressional District primary battle. Gutierrez and Schakowsky praised Newman’s progressive positions against the relatively conservative Lipinski.

“It’s not easy to endorse a challenger over a colleague in the House of Representatives, especially when that colleague is a member of your own party,” Gutierrez said. “But I think this is a very special, and at the same time, a very dangerous time.”

Newman appeared with the retiring Gutierrez and Schakowsky at a news conference in Washington.

Lipinski, meanwhile, highlighted his backing from La Grange Village President Tom Livingston. (Newman lives in La Grange.)

“My belief in working to bring people together to solve problems for my constituents encompasses all levels of government,” Lipinski said in a statement. “I cooperate closely with local officials because they understand the needs of their communities.”

*Silverstein decision coming soon: A hearing officer at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners is weighing whether state Sen. Ira Silverstein should keep his spot on the primary ballot and will issue a recommendation soon.

A challenge to the petition signatures Silverstein needs to get on the ballot found him 45 short of the minimum required. The longtime lawmaker is facing a competitive primary contest after he was accused of sexual harassing a victim rights advocate who says he used her advocacy for legislation in Springfield to pursue an inappropriate relationship.

Over the course of three days, Silverstein’s lawyers and attorneys trying to knock him off the ballot presented dueling evidence in the case. Silverstein was there for much of the hearing.

At one point, the Chicago Democrat recruited dozens of his allies to attest to their signatures on his nominating petitions. He also brought in a handwriting expert who spent hours testifying in support of dozens of signatures that the election board’s examiners had deemed invalid.

*Quick Spin: Former U.S. Sen. Adlai Stevenson III plans to endorse Democratic governor candidate state Sen. Daniel Biss.

What we’re writing

*Emanuel admonishes City Council divided on health care access, abortion views on $5.6 million taxpayer subsidy.

*Obama Presidential Center activists shout “Shame on you!” at aldermen.

*Emanuel doesn’t say whether city should challenge low commercial property assessments.

*Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno: End full nudity at BYOB clubs.

*Duckworth: “No such thing as a surgical strike” in North Korea.

*Judge agrees to keep some documents secret in Dennis Hastert lawsuit.

*Oak Park puts the brakes on Divvy after less than two years.

*Former Cook County commissioner Mary McDonald dies.

*Illinois health department reports 2nd case of measles in 2 days at O’Hare.

*State mental facility in Elgin faces 2nd lawsuit over ex-social worker’s alleged sexual misconduct.

*Dozens of dogs adopted, rescued after city shelter hits capacity.

What we’re reading

*Former Pat Quinn campaign staffer fired from the federal Department of Energy for leaking a photo wants whistleblower protections.

*Bald eagles came back from brink, but are numbers dropping again? An Illinois researcher fears so.

*Meteor over Midwest explodes in brilliant fireball with the force of a mild earthquake.

Follow the money

*Democratic candidate for governor Chris Kennedy reported putting another $250,000 into his campaign.

*Track Illinois campaign contributions in real time here and here.

Beyond Chicago

*North and South Korea to march together at Olympics.

*Kelly suggests DACA deal optimism.

*Mueller probe could last until election.

*Bannon attorney sent White House questions during interview with lawmakers.


Morning Spin: How governor candidates stack up against big-money rivals »

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Morning Spin: Even after tax hike, Illinois education board wants double the money

Hardiman favors violence-prevention czar, gun restrictions, and no public funds for private schools


After talking down would-be killers in neighborhoods beset by gang violence, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and activist Tio Hardiman says he’s up for Illinois’ budget crisis and legislative dysfunction.

Among his goals are reducing violence by banning assault weapons, improving public schools while not funding charter or private schools, and holding the line on casino expansions.

Growing up in an impoverished Chicago neighborhood, Hardiman told the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday he’s the only candidate out of six who understands from “the ground level” violence, racial discrimination and the role of police.

“I’ve lived it personally,” Hardiman, of Calumet City, said. He recounted intervening to save the lives of two boys after a troubled youth shot through the window of their grandmother’s house in Chicago. “Don’t try this at home,” he said jokingly.

Hardiman’s solutions to shootings include more comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, banning assault weapons and appointing a violence prevention czar.

In Illinois, “no one needs a semi-automatic weapon that shoots 300 bullets at one time … I would understand if we’re at war but we’re not in Afghanistan or Iraq,” Hardiman said.

But it also takes intervening personally to prevent shootings and turn troubled kids’ lives around by education and support, said Hardiman, founder of Violence Interrupters, an anti-crime program in Chicago.

His violence prevention czar would work on similar initiatives in the city, Hardiman said.

As for suburbs seeking to reduce violent crime — “I would meet with the mayors of Aurora and Elgin … and I would implement the same type of violence-reduction programs and reach out to the highest-risk individuals and help them become productive members of society,” he said.

Hardiman added he supports the rights of legal gun owners.

To solve the state’s financial problems Hardiman advocates a tax on transactions at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange and introducing a progressive income tax that would tax those earning $250,000 or higher between 7 and 10 percent.

These efforts would raise funds to support public schools, Hardiman said, adding he opposes vouchers or using taxpayer funds for charter or private schools.

“The state should not be funding private schools,” he said. “There shouldn’t be a competition for state funds.”

Another new revenue source would be decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana with age restrictions, said Hardiman, who would commute the sentences of people jailed for possession of small amounts of the drug.

Hardiman originally endorsed extending casinos in Illinois but changed his mind after firsthand experience watching gamblers.

“I saw a lot of people on the slot machines spending their last pennies … it was a sad sight to see,” he said.

Hardiman is running against Democrats state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Madison County Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, developer Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth, physician Robert Marshall of Burr Ridge and billionaire and Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker.

Hardiman favors violence-prevention czar, gun restrictions, and no public funds for private schools

Statehouse bill would connect rural schools to high speed internet


More than 90,000 students across 100 school districts in rural Illinois would get access to high speed internet under a bill proposed Wednesday by state lawmakers.
Proponents say the bill takes advantage of federal money earmarked for Illinois while bridging the digital divide that puts many rural school districts at a disadvantage compared to their urban counterparts.
The legislation would set aside $16.3 million in state funds from the upcoming budget, which would leverage as much as $50 million in matching funds from the federal government.
“We expect schools and teachers to solve all of society’s ills; we debate that all the time in the legislature. Yet we fail to equip them with the tools necessary to get the job done,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. “With the evidence-based model now in place, this is the next logical step for us to take for us to bridge inequity in our public schools in the state of Illinois.”
Online resources taken for granted in some schools — such as streaming educational videos, participating in online testing and engaging in remote learning — are out of reach for those who lack access to high speed internet.
Manar, joined by co-sponsors state Sen. Sam McCann, R-Plainview, and state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, said the measure would be a one-time expense that would use funds from the state’s School Infrastructure Fund, which has $36.4 million sitting in the bank. They estimated that costs to build the fiber optic infrastructure would run between $75,000 to $420,000 per school.
The sponsors warned that if action is not taken this year, in addition to perpetuating the digital divide, federal funds set aside for the state may be diverted to other states.
While the emphasis is on schools, Manar said the legislation had the potential to lay the groundwork for broadband expansion into rural communities.
A total of 40 percent of Americans in rural areas lack access to broadband internet, compared to just 4 percent in urban areas, a 2016 Federal Communications Commission report found.
“One of the ancillary benefits of this are, very clearly, when you put in a fiber line, you‘re going to increase competition,” Manar said. “It’s going to increase access not just for the school, but everything in between where a current fiber line and where the school is today.”
McCann said the legislation could be a boost for rural businesses and help them compete in the digital economy.
“We’re focusing in the micro on schools. We want to make sure that every student in the state of Illinois has access to a 21st century education, not relegated to what’s happening now. But in the process, we believe that our communities, that commerce, that quality of life as a whole for all Illinoisans will rise.”
The bill is expected to be filed within the next few days.

Contact Brenden Moore: 782-3095, bmoore@sj-r.com, http://twitter.com/brendenmoore13.

Statehouse bill would connect rural schools to high speed internet

State Senators Pushing to Bring High Speed Internet to Rural Areas


State Senators Pushing to Bring High Speed Internet to Rural Areas

It’s something many of us take for granted. But high-speed Internet is not a given in many rural parts of the state, including in the school districts in those rural areas. Now some local lawmakers are trying to change that.

Senators Andy Manar and Sam McCann are co-sponsoring a measure to use $16 million in state funds, combined with federal grants, to upgrade rural broadband in schools.

Manar says rural students are being excluded from online classes, test-taking, and other resources because of slow, poor-quality Internet.

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State Senators Pushing to Bring High Speed Internet to Rural Areas

Education officials want to double state budget for schools


State education officials are asking to nearly double the amount of money K-12 education gets from the state.

The Illinois State Board of Education voted Wednesday to ask Gov. Bruce Rauner and the General Assembly to give more than $7.9 billion in additional money to the state’s public schools in the budget that will start July 1.

That would push the amount of general state tax money schools receive from the current $8.2 billion to more than $15.6 billion.

The increase is driven in part by the new school funding formula approved last year that is supposed to direct the most state resources to schools most in need of help. The new formula is designed to narrow the huge spending gap that exists between wealthy and poor school districts. Currently, school districts range from having 46 percent of the resources they need to provide a quality education to 284 percent.

If the ISBE budget recommendation were adopted, it would result in all of the state’s 852 school districts having 90 percent of the resources they need to provide a quality education, education officials said.

“Our new funding formula is grounded in equity and recognizes that children and families across the state are situated differently,” state school superintendent Tony Smith said in a statement. “But the formula alone does not address the deep inequity we see. We now have to fund this formula to create the conditions for every child to thrive.”

At the same time, education board members were reminded Wednesday that preliminary estimates put the state’s revenue growth — without additional tax hikes — at $600 million to $800 million next year. Nonetheless, the board seek the large increase to reinforce how much the state needs to put into education to fix unequal school funding.

Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, who spearheaded the effort to change the funding formula, called the board’s request “bold.”

“I view the board’s actions as setting a high bar and reinforcing the need to address inequity. That’s going to take resources, Manar said.

Manar was part of a school funding reform commission that recommended changes to the way the state funds public schools. The commission, though, recommended that additional funding to reach the goal of adequacy should be phased in over a 10-year period.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, who will outline his latest budget proposal next month, is not required to follow the ISBE recommendations. His office said the governor has proposed education funding increases in previous budgets, but also noted that the commission recommended phasing in a large increqse over several years.

The state Board of Education is recommending increased funding in next year’s budget even as school districts still wait to get the additional K-12 money put into this year’s budget. Schools continue to receive the amount of money they got in the previous year, but additional money was supposed to be distributed using the new funding formula.

However, there was an error in the funding reform bill that has to be corrected before the new money will start flowing. Lawmakers approved a bill to fix that, but Rauner used his amendatory veto powers to add a new provision dealing with scholarships for non-public schools. Lawmakers will need to address that so work on implementing the new formula can continue.

Manar said he thinks the changes made by Rauner are unconstitutional and won’t be accepted by the legislature. But since Rauner made changes, the legislature will have to figure out how to deal with it.

“We should be moving this thing out the door right now and setting it into motion,” Manar said. “The governor’s (amendatory veto) is delaying that process. The longer this takes, the more delay is going to take place. I think we are teetering on a point to where we will not be able to see the impact of new money this school year. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, http://twitter.com/dougfinkesjr.

Education officials want to double state budget for schools