School Funding Bill Compromise: ‘CPS Got Bailed Out and We Made Promises We Can’t Keep’

Written by John Biver

Earlier this month, the Illinois General Assembly approved a school funding bill compromise that Governor Bruce Rauner supports. The Illinois News Network reports:

“For far too long, too many low-income students in our state have been trapped in underfunded, failing schools,” Rauner said in a statement. “The system needed to change. We have changed it. We have put aside our differences and put our kids first. It’s a historic day for Illinois.”

Conservative Republican State Senator Dan McConchie had this to say:

There are many things I wish this legislation included (or didn’t include), but for the first time in two years there was a real effort in the legislature to set aside politics and negotiate a real agreement.

Conservative Republican State Representative Jeanne Ives disagreed and voted against the bill, and wrote ‘CPS got bailed out and we made promises we can’t keep’:

“In typical Illinois fashion, Mike Madigan and Mayor Rahm Emanuel got everything they wanted in the new school funding bill — and more. Madigan got more dollars for the unions, he got the pretense of ending the long debate over education equity funding (this bill won’t end the debate), and most importantly he got to use suburban tax money to bail out CPS.”

Ives also described the drama surrounding the passage of the legislation:

“On top of that Madigan got all the political theater he is known for. There were three separate votes, the first was a test vote and virtue signal to the unions by Democrat members. Then, came the fake veto override vote on SB1 to show the unions they would have to settle for the other bill. And then after more drama, the compromise bill came back on reconsideration and passed. House members knew before the votes were taken what would pass and what wouldn’t — leadership worked their roll calls and structured their votes — because that’s the way it always happens when taxpayers are about to get their pocket picked and the policy can’t stand on its own.”

In a detail-laden article, Representative Ives lays out many facts under this subheading:

The Bill Bails Out Chicago Public Schools — Tax Increase will be Required

• The formula requires $350 million more EACH year to work as planned. The advocates plan on spending up to $6 billion more in the next 10 years on this one grant line. That is double the amount we spent last year.

• The budget bill passed for this year is already projected to be short $1-2 billion. They also short changed the retirement systems by $700 million in the budget bill. Our budget is precarious and there is still $15 billion in unpaid bills. Funding this bill would require a Tax Increase.

• State taxpayers will pay Chicago Teacher Pension normal costs — first year amount is $221 million. This amount will increase each year for the foreseeable future and is determined by their local pension fund — not the state. Chicago teachers only pay 2% of salary toward their multi-million dollar pensions.

• State taxpayers will pay for CPS legacy pension costs forever. This is the most problematic provision outside of the junk science behind the evidenced based formula itself. Chicago Teachers Pension Fund has defunded the account with the help of state legislators for the last 17 years.”

Rep. Ives also explains that Chicago both “hides its property wealth” and “undervalues large commercial property in the Loop by a large amount.” “They have the money to fund their schools,” she writes, “but they want the rest of us to pay first”:

“I have no confidence that [property value] assessments are being done in accordance with state law and with the level of accuracy required. I know my district and others are not being treated fairly in school funding when many districts are not accurately assessing their property, especially property-rich Chicago.”

The Heartland Institute did issue a statement commending the “the one good provision,” and regarding that, Ives writes:

“The bill includes a tax credit scholarship program. This is a very important first step to introducing competition to the marketplace of education and getting kids out of poor performing schools.”

“I am a school choice advocate,” Ives writes, but the “overwhelming negatives of the underlying education funding bill…outweigh this school choice part of the bill.”

Also in her article, Ives included this damning paragraph:

“Spending on average $12k per student in Illinois has generated below average results for decades. In Illinois, only 34% of school children perform at grade level statewide and only 46% of high school graduates are considered college ready (indicated by at least a 21 ACT score). Out of the 852 school districts in the state, nearly 80% of those districts have scores at or below that state average.”

Under her “final thoughts” subheading, Representative Jeannie Ives writes:

“Traditional ways of educating children must be challenged. In our modern society, there are many different and hybrid ways to educate children. Parents should be able to choose the best method for their unique children. That means the marketplace should be opened up by having the dollars for education follow the child – just as we do at the college level. I do not believe this means traditional public or private schools go away. Traditional schools provide many advantages to most children and families. However, there are certainly ways that educators would re-design schools if our antiquated way of funding k-12 education changed first.”

I couldn’t have said it better.

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