The Examiner U-46 News Feed
U-46 budget process impacted by state debate
By Seth Hancock
School District U-46 officials are still uncertain on how its upcoming budget will look after a discussion at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, July 24.
U-46 CEO Tony Sanders raised the issue during board member updates when he noted that the Illinois General Assembly approved a budget earlier in July, but education funding hinges on the approval of a change in the funding formula via Senate Bill 1.
“The education budget is contingent on flowing through an evidence-based funding model, and at this point the state does not have an approved evidence-based funding model,” Sanders said. “There is a bill. Hopefully it will be sent to the governor before long for him to decide whether to approve or veto.”
Sanders urged board members to lobby Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, to sign SB1, which was approved by the Democrat-led General Assembly, although that bill had not been sent to the governor at that time. The bill was sent to the governor on Monday, July 31.
“I can’t stress to our legislators enough, we have to have a budget,” Sanders said. “This is getting to the point of being ridiculous. It’s this late in July and we have no information on whether we’ll have really anything.”
Board member Jeanette Ward responded by noting the apparent political games being played by the Democrat leadership in the General Assembly adding that SB1 was approved on May 31 yet wasn’t sent to Rauner for months.
“There’s one party that has control of both houses,” Ward said. “So that’s why it’s being held back from being given to the governor.”
SB1 was approved by the Illinois house by a 60-52 vote and the senate by a 35-22 vote along partisan lines. That came before the budget vote which was initially vetoed by Rauner but subsequently overridden by the General Assembly, with the help of 10 Republican lawmakers, on July 6.
Rauner vetoed that budget which because it included a permanent 32 percent increase in the personal state income tax rate, from 3.75 percent to 4.95 percent, and a 33.3 percent increase in the corporate tax rate, from 5.25 to 7 percent. The tax hikes come without structural reforms Rauner was seeking like a property tax freeze.
With the SB1 vote coming down partisan lines, the Democrat leadership required in the budget that schools would only receive state funding if Rauner signed a so-called “evidence-based” education funding formula. SB1 is the only “evidence-based” legislation currently approved.
Rauner has vowed to issue an amendatory veto to SB1 to remove what he says is a bailout for Chicago Public Schools (CPS).
Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the Illinois senate president, called an amendatory veto “unconstitutional” in a press release saying an “unconstitutional amendatory veto threatens all the work that has gone into this reform proposal.”
The Illinois Constitution under Article IV, Section 9 does state the governor “may reduce or veto any item of appropriations in a bill.”
Cullerton said in another press release that he wants to work with Rauner while also questioning the governor’s temperament and mental capacity.
“I don’t want him making statewide classroom funding decisions out of a position of anger,” Cullerton said. “I’d like the opportunity to make sure he knows what is in the proposal from the people who wrote it so he can make a rational decision.”
At a press conference last week, Rauner blamed Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) for holding up the process and creating uncertainty for school districts.
Rauner asked why at the press conference and said the answer was to “create a crisis. Hurt our children. Hurt our teachers. To create panic. To force people to make a decision to take money out of the classroom and send it to a pension payment for Chicago. Force through intimidation. Our children deserve so much better than this. Our families deserve so much better than this.”
“Madigan’s majority forced through a terrible tax increase on our families. Families are struggling in Illinois to make ends meet, and a terrible tax hike was forced through on them through the same process,” Rauner added. “Cause pain, cause suffering, cause chaos. Two years of no budgets to force a tax hike with no changes to help our families who need more jobs, who need property tax relief. The same terrible tactic’s being used right now.”
Sanders and U-46 have supported the “evidence-based” formula as an option and not engaged in debate by bringing in multiple viewpoints on the topic. At a town hall meeting in St. Charles on July 27, Sanders opposed Rauner’s amendatory veto and claimed there was no bailout for CPS.
However, SB1 does in fact include multiple benefits specifically for Chicago. CPS would continue to receive “block grant” funding, the only schools in the state to receive such funds, while the state will pay for “normal” pension costs which is $215 million a year. CPS would also be the only district in the state allowed to hide unfunded pension liabilities which will make it look poorer than it is thus opening up more potential opportunities for state aid.
Fiscal mismanagement has led to junk bond status for CPS by major ratings agencies like Standards and Poor’s as well as Moody’s.
“(SB1) would enshrine into state law that suburban taxpayers bail out corrupt and mismanaged (CPS) over the next generation,” said Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) in a July 21 press release. She added: “It is legislation written by insiders and lobbyists -- not by legislators who represent taxpayers, parents and children.”
Ives said that “three unelected, politically-connected liberal lobbyists who are virtually unknown to Illinois families” and “concocted a scheme to bailout Chicago pensions on the backs of suburban school children.”
At the town hall, Sanders called U-46 “really a pocket of poverty within a giant circle of wealth.” In April, U-46 hosted a town hall specifically for “advocates” of “evidence-based” funding and called Illinois “one of the most underfunded” states in the nation despite U.S. Census Bureau showing the state spends the most per pupil among the 13 Midwestern states and 13th most in the nation.
Ives spoke to The Examiner in April and said regarding the “evidence-based” model that the “bottom line is that where it’s been implemented, there have been no results in over a decade.” The Examiner reviewed data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress which showed Ives to be correct.
Ives said the model micromanages school districts down to little details such as how many janitors a district must hire.
The “evidence-based” model was developed by Allan Odden, a University of Wisconsin professor, and Lawrence Picus, a University of Southern California professor, whom Eric Hanushek, a Stanford University professor, called “snake-oil salesmen” as he wrote in “Confidence Men: Selling Adequacy, Making Millions” to “pity the poor states that actually implement the Picus and Odden plan. They are sure to be disappointed by the results, and most taxpayers (those who do not work for the schools) will be noticeably poorer.”