The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Equity funding debate strikes at U-46 core
By Seth Hancock
“If the changes I have recommended are upheld, Illinois will achieve a tremendous feat. Our state will enact historic education reform,” said Gov. Bruce Rauner at a press conference after issuing an amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, a so-called “evidence-based” education funding formula, on Tuesday, Aug. 1.
The amendatory veto issued by the governor changes the bill to strip what he calls a “bailout” of Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The Illinois General Assembly needs a three-fifths majority vote to either override or accept the governor’s recommendations, or the legislature will have to work out a new bill.
School District U-46 CEO Tony Sanders has supported the “evidence-based” formula and SB1 throughout the year as well as opposed the governor’s amendatory veto claiming there is no CPS bailout.
The Examiner reported last week some of the provisions of SB1 that have led to a characterization of a CPS “bailout,” but regardless it’s a judgment call based on one’s viewpoint. Whether SB1 stands as originally drafted by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly or if the Republican Rauner’s recommendations are accepted U-46 would gain either way. As such, The Examiner asked Sanders why he’s inserted himself in the “bailout” debate?
While not answering the question directly, Sanders continued to “disagree with the characterization that this is a bailout” and took issue with the term partisan.
“I have made no ‘partisan’ statements,” Sanders said. “I have encouraged members of the House and Senate, both Republican and Democrat, to work together on a solution. Now that a solution has been reached in the legislature, I turned my attention to the governor. Advocating on behalf of our 40,000 students and 11 communities is not partisan.”
“It is my hope the Governor and legislative leaders will meet to discuss and negotiate a final bill sooner rather than later,” Sanders added.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines partisan as: “A firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person.”
Sanders has firmly adhered to the “evidence-based” model and U-46 has held one-sided town halls like one in April that was for “advocates” of the formula despite there being opponents within the legislature and among taxpayers. SB1 itself was approved through a partisan-line vote in the General Assembly.
In regards to the “bailout,” Rauner said at the press conference “the math is very clear.”
“This is a diversion of money from all of the schools around the state to one district,” Rauner said. “And let me be very clear, I care deeply about the families in Chicago. I care deeply about the low-income children in Chicago. I have personally advocated, my wife and I, and devoted our lives to improving the education quality for the children of Chicago and with my amendatory veto Chicago children, Chicago classrooms, will receive almost $200 million more than under the current funding formula that’s been in place for years.”
Rauner added: “My amendatory veto helps all children in the state. What the amendatory veto prevents is a diversion, an unfair diversion, removal of money from the classroom to fund a broken pension system that deserves to be reformed…. The right way to do that is not by inserting that action inside an education funding bill and diverting money away from the classroom.”
Sanders has commented about the uncertainty for the upcoming school year without a funding bill, and he’s pushed a #SignSB1 campaign on social media but started that before the bill ever hit Rauner’s desk. SB1 was held by Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), the senate president, for two months after it was approved on May 31 with Rauner just getting the bill on July 31.
In the state’s budget, which included a 32 percent increase in the personal state income tax rate and a 33.3 percent increase in the corporate tax rate, approved in early July, a provision was included by the Democrat leadership requiring passage of an “evidence-based” funding formula in order for schools to receive funding.
Rauner called Cullerton’s actions a “procedural quirk to sit on the bill, to stall the bill” and he “acted swiftly as I have promised” offering the amendatory veto the day after he received the bill.
Considering the bill was sent to Rauner just a few weeks before classes begin, Sanders was asked why he didn’t lobby Cullerton to send the bill to Rauner before pushing the #SignSB1 campaign.
“I was not in the office or regularly engaging on social media during the time the governor began his push,” Sanders said. “I do not recall any legislators nor the governor making an issue over the bill being sent to him until mid-July. I also know it is common for bills to be held for a variety of reasons.”
Sanders has officially lobbied the state for the district and in July he supported the state’s tax increases writing in a Facebook post: “The state has no option than to increase revenues.”
Illinois’ current debt stands at $154.9 billion according to usdebtclock.org, George Mason University’s Mercatus Center’s ranking of states for fiscal health has Illinois at 47th overall and Internal Revenue Service data showed 2016 was the third straight year in which Illinois saw the largest decrease in population in the nation.
Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that from June 2016 to June 2017 Illinois’ job growth was 0.9 percent behind the national average of 1.5 percent and the average of all neighboring states: Kentucky (2 percent), Indiana and Michigan (1.9 percent), Iowa (1.7 percent), Missouri (1.6 percent) and Wisconsin (1.5 percent).
Sanders was asked if he recognized that there are no signs of these trends ending soon and how the state’s tax hikes will help U-46 and its citizens. He said: “Legislators would have a better depth of knowledge on the impact of a tax increase on job growth, so I would defer to those who supported the final budget package.”
Sanders has also continued to decry impoverishment in U-46 as a need for more state dollars saying “we are really a pocket of poverty within a giant circle of wealth” at a recent town hall, but many in U-46’s staff do not feel the same effects that many taxpayers do according to data from openthebooks.com.
From 2007 to 2016, known as the Great Recession era, Illinois has had the least amount of personal income growth in the country at 0.8 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. In contrast, the most recent teacher contract approved by the U-46 board, Ward the lone current board member to vote no, guarantees an average pay raise of 3.1 percent each year and the district’s the lowest starting salary at $42,805 is over $10,000 more than the average private sector worker in the state according to data from the Illinois Department of Central Management and U.S. Census Bureau.
Some U-46 board members have made public statements via social media including Melissa Owens and Traci Ellis supporting SB1. Owens said “we need this bill signed” but Ellis went to personal attacks: “This is incredibly hilarious. Rauner’s Tea Party doesn’t understand even the most basic idea of equity and access. It starts with EQUITABLE FUNDING.”
Board member Jeanette Ward opposes SB1 writing: “Because of its bailout of Chicago Public Schools, its unfunded mandates, and restrictions on local control - like telling school boards how many teachers to hire - SB1 should be vetoed in its entirety.”