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U-46 reviews issues set for IASB delegates vote


By Seth Hancock
  School District U-46’s Board of Education will have a representative at the Illinois Association of School Board’s (IASB) delegate assembly that will take place later this month, and the resolutions to be voted on at that assembly raised some questions.
  The assembly was first discussed at the Monday, Oct. 19 board meeting. U-46 CEO Tony Sanders submitted a synopsis of the resolutions to the board, including the IASB’s and U-46 administration’s recommendations, which will guide how the IASB will lobby the state.
  “In every instance of the five resolutions before you, the cabinet recommends the same position that the Illinois Association of School Board’s resolution committee recommends,” Sanders said.
  Among the resolutions, one submitted by School District 219 in Niles, goes beyond education issues and into healthcare. The resolution is in support of legislation that would require “hospitals to meet constitutional standards” in order to receive tax-exempt status. Both the IASB and U-46 administration supports that resolution.
  At the Nov. 2 meeting, board member Jeanette Ward said: “My concern was that if you make it more difficult for hospitals and you increase their property taxes, anyone who goes to that hospital for health care is going to pay the cost.”
  The rationale stated in the IASB’s response in support of the resolution cited “financial hardships” public schools face by not receiving property taxes from hospitals. It noted a decision by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2010 that led to 2012 legislation that mandated a certain level of charitable giving, as defined by the legislature, to receive tax-exempt status, and the Niles district is currently fighting that law.
  “From a financial standpoint, it would not affect the school district at all but what happens is if a hospital, or any business for that matter, is able to reduce its property tax bill it actually shares out among all property tax owners and businesses that are actually in the taxing district,” Sanders said in support.
  Board member Sue Kerr also had concerns with that resolution citing Advocate Sherman and St. Joseph’s hospitals in Elgin, both religiously based, which she said she checked their tax information and noticed they paid nothing in property taxes likely making them tax-exempt, and this could adversely affect them.
  “My concern is that if they’re going from zero to the full tax amount, it could be a pretty big burden,” Kerr said who added in a large school district that could be a minimal difference for homeowners and she wanted numbers on the impact to those hospitals.
  Sanders did not know if or how those hospitals would be affected, but board member Traci Ellis apparently felt she could speak for them and apparently had little concern about the possible unintended consequences to hospitals across the state.
  “I’m in favor of this because for our two hospitals it doesn’t really impact them,” Ellis said. “This is not a mandate to start making privately held non-profit hospitals start paying property taxes.”
  Ellis added: “If they are not meeting their charitable giving mission, they should not have tax exempt status.”
  Some may wonder if the government, schools in particular, should be defining what is or is not charitable giving and what standards a hospital should follow.
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, said she would try and find information on what led to this resolution and bring it back to the board at the next meeting which is before the assembly.
  Another concern for Ward dealt with a charter school resolution, but she said responses to questions from the administration alleviated those concerns.
  That reaffirmation of an already approved resolution by the IASB was submitted by District 50 in Woodland, and it seeks a “new methodology for the funding” of charter schools. It’s supported by both the IASB and U-46.
  Sanders said that charters “can receive 125 percent” per student leaving the home school district and “it actually costs the sending school district more than what the district is currently spending on the existing students.” He also said funds remain with the charter school throughout the year even if that student returned to the school district during the course of the year.
  “My concern was kind of making [charter schools] jump through more hoops, but I agree that it’s not quite fair if someone leaves a charter school that that charter school gets to keep the money and it doesn’t come back to the public school,” Ward said.
  Another resolution Ward had concerns with, which she brought up at the Oct. 19 meeting, concerned recommending the Illinois State Board of Education do a study to determine the unfunded mandate costs to school districts from the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). That resolution, submitted by District 73 in East Prairie, was not supported by the IASB or U-46.
  The IASB response states there is no way to do an analysis of those costs.
  “I see their reasoning to not undertake a study to look at that, but I’m not necessarily sure I agree with that,” Ward said. “I think it might be a good thing to undertake a study to understand the cost of all the unfunded mandates.”
  Sanders said that reauthorization of a new education law would make NCLB a mute points, and “my fear was it’s another unfunded mandate on us to try and tell them how much it costs us to do all these things.”
  Ward said “understood” but “it would be nice if we could get an estimate or a ballpark feeling, if not on No Child Left Behind, on the proposed legislation. How much is this going to cost us?”
  “Not a study but a ballpark,” Ward added and that if NCLB is no longer going to be law then she supports the resolution.
  Sanders said U-46 is a part of some groups that possibly could give a ballpark figure.
  Smith, who has generally been the U-46 representative at the assembly in the past, appears will represent the board again. Although she encouraged others to go, no other board member took up the offer.

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