You may have seen in the news recently that the Illinois State Board of Education’s (ISBE) budget request for the 2019 Fiscal Year (FY) is $15.7 billion, an increase of $7.5 billion over FY 2018. With Illinois’s financial issues well known, even ISBE acknowledges that this request is not going to be fully funded. But it is still important that legislators address this request. Here are three reasons why ISBE’s funding request matters:
- In arguing against SB 2236, a bill that would require the General Assembly to fund public education prior to funding the private school scholarship program, some legislators have backed away from increasing education funding, calling equitable funding an “aspirational goal” and calling the chances of adding $350 million to FY 2018 funding “slim to none.” ISBE’s budget request forces legislators to confront the true full cost of adequately funding education in Illinois and makes underfunding education a conscious, knowing decision.
- A new report out this week shows that Illinois’s worst in the nation education funding equity has continued to get worse. Last year’s report indicated that Illinois spent only $0.81 on a low-income student for every $1.00 spent on a non-low-income student. The new report shows that amount has now dropped to $0.78 spent on a low-income student. That same report showed that Illinois ranked 45th in state funding for education, with only 40% of school funding coming from the state. The lack of state funding puts increasing pressure on local school districts to increase local property taxes to adequately fund education. ISBE’s budget request lays bare Illinois’s lack of state funding for education.
- The new evidence-based funding (EBF) model adopted by the General Assembly last fall now details how underfunded schools are on a district level. No longer can legislators hide behind statewide averages that show them providing 80% of the state’s foundation level of funding. The EBF model now clearly shows that some districts in Illinois are only 45% adequately funded. Because the EBF model also takes into account a district’s ability to increase funding through local property taxes, the failure of the state to provide adequate funding to these districts is clear. ISBE’s budget request is based on providing 90% of every district’s adequacy target and shows how significant the state’s underfunding education is for each child in Illinois.
Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.
Today is Illinois PTA Advocacy Day. Even if you can’t join us in Springfield, you can still participate. If you have a few minutes sometime in the next few days, send an e-mail to your legislators. The text is prewritten for you, though you can edit it or add more if you would like to. Then, add your contact information and hit send.
If you have a bit more time, schedule a meeting with your legislators at their district offices. They will be in Springfield this week for the veto session, but will be back in their districts next week. If you’re not sure how to set up a meeting or how to talk to a legislator, be sure to check out our webinar from last year on How to Meet with Legislators.
Illinois PTA is advocating on three key issues this year for Advocacy Day:
- Education Funding: The new funding formula starts Illinois on a path towards adequate and equitable funding, but without additional funding added to the formula in future years, we will continue to have the most inequitable school funding in the country.
- Environmental Concerns: Based on our 2017 resolutions on climate change and hydraulic fracturing (fracking), we are asking legislators to support science-based regulations on carbon emissions and fracking operations to protect children’s health and the environment.
- Justice-Involved Young Adults: Based on our report to the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we are asking lawmakers to consider legislation treating those ages 18 to 24 involved in the justice system differently from those 25 and older, as scientific research indicates that young adults in that age range behave much more like teenagers than adults due to brain development.
If you are unsure what to say about these topics to your legislator, check out our 2017 Hot Topics webinar or contact Illinois PTA Legislative Advocacy Director Lisa Garbaty, who can provide you with talking points and handouts to share.
Finally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to make your voice heard on important advocacy issues in the future. Find out about Illinois PTA Calls to Action by signing up for the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network.
Today, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Senate Bill 1947 (SB1947), the negotiated agreement of Senate Bill 1 (SB1), into law. While Illinois PTA supported SB1, we called for an override of the governor’s amendatory veto of SB1 and did not support SB1947.
Illinois PTA has long supported adequate, equitable, and sustainable funding of public schools, and SB1 was an important first step in improving the most inadequate and inequitable state education funding in the country. The process that resulted in SB1 took several years of research, negotiations, and public hearings. The result was a school funding formula that would put Illinois on a path towards guaranteeing every child in Illinois a high quality education regardless of their zip code.
After the Senate overrode the governor’s amendatory veto, the House was unable to do so, and a new agreement was negotiated over the weekend. This agreement was amended into SB1947, the details of which were not made public until Monday, just hours before the vote was taken. The Senate passed the new SB1947 on Tuesday.
While Illinois PTA applauds the new funding formula included in SB1947, which was essentially that of SB1, and believes it will begin the process of improving education funding in Illinois, there are items included in the agreement that Illinois PTA could not support:
- The creation of a $75 million scholarship tax credit for private schools, which diverts public funds for non-public schools (see Illinois PTA Legislative Platform 3.a.). With Illinois schools receiving the worst level of state funding in the country and the state of Illinois having $15 billion in unpaid bills (a significant fraction of which are due public schools), Illinois PTA believes that any “extra” funding for education that the state “finds” should go to public schools.
- Mandate relief that allows school districts to reduce the required number of days for physical education from five days per week to three. With childhood obesity continuing to grow, Illinois PTA believes that schools should be instrumental in helping children develop healthy habits such as daily exercise. In addition, as schools cut recess time, PE increasingly becomes the only time children have during the school day to be active, which is critical not only for their health but helps improve student achievement.
- The creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Reform Task Force, while an important first step in discussing the effect TIF districts have on school funding, will not be subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information or Open Meetings requirements. Illinois PTA believes that this discussion deserves to be visible to the public and not hidden behind closed doors.
The new education funding formula is a significant victory for the children of Illinois, and Illinois PTA is proud to have been a leading advocate on their behalf. We are, however, disappointed that a crisis manufactured by the governor’s amendatory veto was used to create a scholarship/voucher program with no public hearings or debate, and we strongly encourage the General Assembly to not renew the program when it sunsets in five years.
Primary goals of both the National PTA and Illinois PTA are the adequate funding of education programs.
The National PTA puts funding front and center in the 2017-18 Federal Public Policy Agenda Checklist with a call for a regular appropriations process replacing the current practice of sequestration “with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not further cut education funding and invests in key programs.” One current initiative is the Stop Cuts to Classrooms campaign.
The Illinois PTA Legislation Platform addresses education funding that is “adequate, equitable and sustainable.” Item 2 of the Platform addresses tax considerations by calling for revision of the revenue article of the state constitution, legislative revision of the taxation processes, new sources of revenue which might expand the sales tax base, modifications of the existing taxation processes, appropriation of taxes to best meet the needs of Illinois citizens, removal of unjust tax limitations on unit districts, and removal of the limitations on bonding power of school districts.
Why? To provide the best possible education for every child in every public school in Illinois. Without adequate, equitable and sustainable funding, Illinois will continue to lag behind much of the nation in providing the kind of education our children deserve. Currently, one of the hottest topics in the Illinois legislature is the revision of the school funding formula, Senate Bill 1 (SB1), which was passed by both chambers of the Illinois legislature. The Governor issued an amendatory veto to the bill, which the Senate has overridden, and now the fate of SB1 is in the House as of this writing. Our Legislation Platform allows us to take a position to support SB1.
The National PTA provides its most current legislative priorities in its Federal Public Policy Agenda found at www.pta.org under the Advocacy menu. The Illinois PTA Legislation Platform is on our website in both full and brief form at www.illinoispta.org under Advocacy.
Want to know more? Go to the Illinois PTA website advocacy page. Be a champion for children, join the Illinois PTA Takes Action Network, and join us in Springfield to be a part of “advocacy in action” on November 14, 2017.