Illinois PTA Urges Governor Rauner to Sign SB1

Illinois PTA president Brian Minsker spoke on Tuesday at a press conference in Decatur calling on Governor Rauner to sign Senate Bill 1 (SB1), a bill that would change Illinois’s school funding formula. His remarks are below, and you can view a video of the press conference courtesy of the Decatur Herald and Review (President Minsker’s remarks begin at 8:25). In addition, Illinois PTA encourages every PTA member to take a couple of minutes today contact Governor Rauner to urge him to sign SB1 using our ready-to-go letter.

Much of the news since the passage of a state budget has focused on the requirement of an evidence-based funding model in order for schools to receive funding this year. The need to keep our schools open for this school year, which for some has already begun, is certainly one reason to support SB1, the only evidence-based funding model that has passed both houses of the General Assembly.

But that budget requirement is not the primary reason that the Illinois PTA is urging the governor to sign SB1. Illinois PTA has long supported education funding that is adequate, equitable, and sustainable as part of our legislative platform. While our state remains far from meeting those three goals, SB1 is an important first step towards achieving them.

As a statewide association with PTAs in rural, suburban, and urban school districts, it was essential that no school district lose funding under an evidence-based model and that such protections last for more than a handful of years. SB1 provides just that, locking in current levels of funding as a foundation.

In Illinois, we currently spend a worst-in-the-nation $0.81 on a low-income student’s education for every $1.00 we spend on a non-low-income student. By determining the unique cost to educate a student in each Illinois school district, by measuring that against the district’s ability to raise its own funding, by treating every school district in Illinois the same in how current, but not legacy, pension costs are handled, and by providing more funding for districts the further they are from their target funding, SB1 begins the process of providing a more equitable distribution of funds throughout Illinois.

This approach is essential to guaranteeing that the quality of a child’s education does not depend on their zip code. Governor Rauner promised to fix our funding formula. His bipartisan commission recommended an evidence-based funding model, which SB1 now implements. The time has come for the governor to deliver on that promise and sign SB1.

We have spent the last two years without a budget, and we have seen the lasting damage that has been done to our community colleges, our universities, and our social services. Now that we finally have a budget, let’s not shift the political fight to our schools and our children, for that is what this fight is truly about. Do we move to provide every child in Illinois a quality education, or do we use our children, our future, as pawns to score political points? Governor Rauner, Illinois PTA urges you to sign SB1 for every Illinois child.

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.