Understanding SB1: Changing the Illinois School Funding Formula

Senate Bill 1 (SB1) is aimed at improving how Illinois distributes money to local school districts. The bill uses an Evidence-Based Funding Model, as recommended by Governor Rauner’s Illinois School Funding Reform Commission to distribute new state education funding in a more equitable manner than the existing formula. SB1 has passed both houses and awaits the governor’s signature or veto. The budget passed by the legislature requires that school funding use an evidence-based model, such as SB1, without which no funds will be distributed to K-12 schools this fiscal year. SB1 is the only such funding formula bill to pass both houses.

Why do we need a new funding formula?

Last fall, Advance Illinois released a report on public education in Illinois called The State We’re In 2016-2017 noting that an increasing number of Illinois school districts are teaching more children living in poverty and more children learning English, both populations that require extra supports for success. As state funding for education has fallen further behind the foundation level (the state-determined cost to adequately educate a student in Illinois), school districts have increased property taxes to make up the difference. However, property wealth is not evenly distributed across the state, with some districts able to raise significant funding through property taxes, while others are able to raise very little even with high tax rates. The funding provided by the state is also not evenly distributed under the current funding formula, as for every $1.00 Illinois spends on a non-low-income student, it spends only $0.81 on a low-income student—the worst ratio in the country.

How will the new formula work?

The new formula calculates a unique adequacy target for each school district by applying 27 evidence-based criteria based on a district’s demographics (e.g., class size, technology, up-to-date materials, special education teachers and aides). The formula also identifies how much state funding a district currently receives and locks it in as the district’s base funding minimum and measures how much local capacity the district has to raise funds through property taxes, called its local capacity target.

Districts are then divided into four tiers based on how close they are to their adequacy targets, with Tier 1 districts being furthest away and Tier 4 districts being the closest. When new funding beyond the base funding minimum is allocated, Tier 1 schools get the first 50%, Tiers 1 and 2 split the next 49%, and the final 1% is split between Tiers 3 and 4. Those additional funds are then counted as part of the following year’s base funding minimum, so districts will move out of the lower tiers as they get closer to their adequacy target.

Will any school districts lose funding?

No. The formula locks in a district’s current funding level as its base funding minimum. All new state funding for education going forward is in addition to what districts currently receive, and it is those additional funds that will be allocated using the Evidence-Based Funding Model.

Is this a Chicago Public Schools (CPS) bailout?

No. Under the current formula, CPS is handled differently, receiving a block grant that other districts do not but also paying for their teacher pensions that the state pays for other districts. That means that CPS currently has to keep tax dollars away from the classroom to pay for pension costs that other districts do not have to pay. It is estimated that state pension payments on behalf of districts other than CPS are worth an average of $1,880 per student in the Chicago suburbs and $1,420 per student in downstate school districts.

With SB1, the block grant is folded into CPS’s base funding minimum and eliminated going forward. Regarding pensions, CPS is treated like every other school district, with the state paying for the cost of pension benefits its teachers are earning today. That means that CPS receives approximately $220 million that it is required to use for pensions, just like every other district has had in years past. However, CPS will still be the only school district required to pay for its own legacy pension costs, or “unfunded liability.” That means that CPS will spend approximately $0.14 on its unfunded pension liabilities and $0.86 on educating students. The new formula accounts for this by crediting CPS’s local capacity target, since it can only spend a tax dollar once, but does not give CPS additional funding for these legacy costs.

Additionally, if the state were to push pension costs to all local school districts to reduce the state’s pension liabilities in the future,  SB1 would treat all districts identically to CPS.

Where can I learn more about SB1?

There are several places you can find more information about SB1:

What is Illinois PTA’s position on SB1?

Illinois PTA’s mission is “to make every child’s potential a reality.” Our legislative platform supports adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding for education in Illinois. The current state funding formula and level of funding meets none of those three conditions. SB1 represents an important step in moving public education funding in Illinois towards being adequate, equitable, and sustainable. The hold harmless clause in SB1 protects existing levels of state funding for every school district in Illinois indefinitely, rather than phasing out like previous funding formula proposals did. For these reasons, Illinois PTA supports SB1 and urges Governor Rauner to sign the bill into law.

What can I do?

Contact Governor Rauner and urge him to sign SB1 into law. Should the governor veto SB1, Illinois PTA will issue a call to action that will provide you with a message to your legislators asking them to override the veto. Sign up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network to be sure you get the call.

 

Ending the Expulsion of Preschoolers in Illinois

Photo © 2009 by Sarah Gilbert under Creative Commons license.

“Expelled from preschool” sounds like a headline from a humor website like The Onion, but in fact preschoolers are expelled nationwide at more than three times the rate of students in K-12 classes. More significantly, these expulsions are disproportionately given to boys and to African-American and Hispanic students. Preschool education is critical to preparing students for success in school, especially for students from low-income families, students learning English as a second language, and students with special needs. Preschool expulsion jeopardizes the foundation of those students’ education, making them less prepared to enter kindergarten.

Illinois passed a law last year requiring K-12 schools to improve their suspension and expulsion practices. This year, the Illinois General Assembly has passed HB 2663, which currently awaits the governor’s signature. HB2663 would:

  • Prohibit the expulsion of children from preschool programs that receive money from the state.
  • Requires documentation of steps taken when a child exhibits persistent and serious challenging behaviors to ensure that all available interventions, supports, and community resources are applied.
  • Provides for the creation of a transition plan if there is documented evidence that all available interventions and supports recommended by a professional have been exhausted to move the child to another preschool program. The plan must be designed to ensure continuity of services and the comprehensive development of the child.
  • Requires the state to recommend professional development training and resources to improve the ability of teachers, administrators, and staff to promote social-emotional development, address challenging behaviors, and to understand trauma and trauma-informed care, cultural competence, family engagement with diverse populations, the effect of implicit bias on adult behavior, and the use of reflective practice techniques.
  • Requires the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, in consultation with the governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and the Illinois State Board of Education, to adopt rules similar to those above for licensed day care centers, day care homes, and group day care homes.

Illinois PTA is urging Governor Rauner to sign HB2663 into law.

News from National Convention: Resolutions

PTA resolutions are a way for the membership of the association to express its opinion and intent to address issues affecting the lives of children and youth. They focus and formalize the position of the PTA on a variety of issues. At the 2017 National PTA convention in Las Vegas, the delegates adopted one resolution and added one more resolved clause to an existing resolution.

Resolution on Healthy Sleep for Adolescents

Any parent of a teenager knows how hard it can be to get them in bed at a decent hour, much less get them out of bed the next morning to get them to school. Research confirms this, noting that adolescents have their sleep patterns shift from those of their younger years, having difficulty falling asleep before 11:00pm and functioning at their best when allowed to sleep until 8:00am.

Unfortunately, many teens are not getting the 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep that they need each night. More than two-thirds get less than 8 hours of sleep on school nights. The reasons for this chronic sleep deprivation in teens is varied, but include large amounts of homework, busy extracurricular and work schedules, poor sleep routines (including using cell phones and other backlit screens shortly before bed that can disrupt the ability to fall asleep), and early school start times. Approximately 40% of high schools in the United States start at 8:00am or earlier.

The result of this sleep deprivation in teens results in increased risks in many aspects of their lives, including an increased likelihood of accidents due to impaired driving, an increased risk of depression and suicide, and an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, metabolic dysfunction, and other physical health problems in adulthood.

Early school start times have been identified as a key, but easily modified, component of adolescent sleep deprivation. Schools that have moved start times later for their older students have seen not only decreases in tardiness, absences, and discipline issues but also increases in student performance and greater participation in extracurricular activities.

To address these issues, the resolution calls on PTAs to educate youth, parents, educators, school personnel, school boards, athletic coaches, athletic organizations, state board of education members, and the community about the positive impact that sufficient, quality sleep has for teens’ health, safety, academic success, and future earnings.

PTAs are also encouraged (modified by the delegates from “urged” in the proposed resolution to address areas of the country with limited daylight hours during part of the year) to collaborate with other stakeholders and policymakers to develop solutions and policies that allow teens to get sufficient, quality sleep. National PTA is directed to work with the Department of Education to encourage states and school districts to incorporate standards regarding sleep needs and patterns, potential risks of insufficient sleep, signs of sleep related difficulties, and healthy sleep habits into existing health, science, physical education, and other appropriate curricula.

Proposed Amendment to Resolution on Sale, Resale and Destruction of Firearms

In 1996, the National PTA passed a resolution on the sale, resale, and destruction of firearms. Later that year, the Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included the Dickey Amendment, an amendment that prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds for injury prevention and control to advocate or promote gun control. In the same bill, $2.6 million, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearms research the previous year, was earmarked for traumatic brain injury research.

The Dickey Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the CDC cannot conduct research into gun violence, and appropriations for the CDC since 1996 have continued to include the amendment. The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress attempted to remove the amendment in 2015, but were unsuccessful. It is also important to note that Jay Dickey, the representative for whom the amendment is named, has since stated that the CDC should be allowed to research the causes of gun violence, noting that “doing nothing is no longer an option.”

The amendment to the 1996 resolution inserts a new resolved clause that states: “That the National PTA and its constituent bodies shall seek and support legislation for state and federal funding initiatives for the research of the causes and effects of gun violence.” The delegate body voted to split the amendment into two resolved clauses, one directing the National PTA to work for federal legislation and funding and one directing state PTAs to do the same on the state level.

The National PTA legislation team that submitted the amendment stated that the reason for amending rather than submitting a completely new resolution was that the 1996 resolution specifically mentioned CDC research, but since that time, there has been extremely limited research to fully support a new resolution.

 

National PTA Statement on President Trump’s Budget Proposal

National PTA released the following statement on Wednesday regarding President Trump’s proposed budget.

President Trump’s Cuts to Public Education Devastating for America’s Children

President Donald Trump released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018. The proposal cuts funding for public education programs by $9.2 billion.

“Equitable, high-quality public education for all students is essential to children and the nation’s long-term success,” said Laura Bay, president of National PTA. “Federal funding for education has remained at 2% of the federal budget for decades. Cutting funding for public education programs by an astounding $9.2 billion would further undermine opportunity for all children. Greater investments in public education are critical to ensure every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential and to improve our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

In addition to cutting vital funding for public education programs overall, President Trump’s budget proposal does not include funding for educator professional development or for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, which help ensure students receive well-rounded educational opportunities, learn in healthy and safe school environments and have opportunities to use technology in the classroom. Funding for Title I—which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families—as well as for special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) remains at the current level in the proposal. The proposal also does not include investments for family engagement in education through the Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) program.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative to invest in family engagement programs as well as special education and Title I to ensure all children are provided the best opportunities to thrive and learn,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, National PTA Executive Director. “Across the country there are great disparities in available resources as well as the quality of and access to educational opportunities. National PTA remains steadfast in our belief that robust federal investments must be made in public education programs that promote equity and opportunity for all children.”

While making significant cuts to public education funding, President Trump’s budget proposal includes a new $250 million competitive grant program that would allow public dollars to be used for private and religious school tuition. Additionally, the proposal allocates $1 billion in Title I for the creation of a new grant program that would allow those funds to “follow” a child to any public school.

“National PTA has strong concerns about any proposal that would significantly affect the distribution of funds across and within Title I districts and create division and separation within communities. Our association also opposes any private school choice system—tax credits, vouchers or deductions—that drains critical public school resources,” added President Bay. “Public dollars must remain invested in public schools and not be diverted for the benefit of all students and the future of our nation.”