Another proposal to reform K-12 education funding is being floated this month in the Illinois Senate. Republican and Democrat lawmakers do agree the state’s nearly 20-year-old system of funding K-12 education has become increasingly inequitable, but that’s where our agreement ends.
Democrat leaders have threatened to withhold state funding for all schools until they can secure a complete rewrite of the formula and obtain a $500 million bailout of the poorly-managed, fiscally-strapped Chicago Public School (CPS) system. That is unacceptable.
This issue is too important to our children and our state, so lawmakers must proceed carefully. The latest bill is several hundred pages long that will take time for my colleagues, staff and I to review it. The education funding formula is very complex and any changes will require study, hearings, input from stakeholders, including school districts, educators and taxpayers. Because of likely effects, especially on our suburban schools, reform should not be rushed.
In the interim, Senate Republicans and I continue to support Governor Rauner’s call to fully fund the current school funding formula for the first time in seven years, and to end the current practice of proration. With our plan, all schools would benefit; all students win.
Senate Republicans have offered proposals this spring to help CPS, but so far Democrat leaders in the Senate have prevented any hearings from being held on those bills.
For a decade, Democrat majorities in the House and Senate authored budgets that resulted in cuts to elementary and secondary schools across Illinois. In 2013, Illinois’ top Democrat Michael Madigan proclaimed downstate and suburban schools were getting a “free lunch” so more State funding should be directed to CPS. This year, Democrat Senate President John Cullerton has threatened to withhold ALL school funding until a new formula is devised. Holding other school districts hostage for a CPS bailout is irresponsible and detrimental to our students.
My Republican colleagues and I have been willing and eager to partner in revising the school aid formula. The General Assembly needs to be realistic and recognize it will require bipartisan discussions involving key stakeholders to devise a new formula that can work long-term. We need to fix our broken school funding system for all Illinois students. But that cannot involve a CPS bailout that only undermines that effort. Our solution must benefit all of our school children.