This week was the deadline in each chamber to pass bills out of committee. The Senate and House both cancelled Friday as a legislative session day and extended the deadline on several bills so they may be considered in committee next week. This week’s update focuses on the school funding formula and the budget. We will provide an overview of the status of bills in next week’s update.

1Budget

A group of bipartisan legislators are working independently on a solution to the budget crisis. The group came forward with a proposal at the end of this week in the form of a framework that was sent to the legislative leaders. It is our understanding that the framework includes $5.4 billion in revenue and approximately $2.5 billion in cuts.

Revenue could come in the form of an increase in the state personal income tax and sales tax.

The reductions could come in the form of Medicaid cuts, reduced health care spending, pension revisions and loan forgiveness. Other cuts appear to be slated in terms of state government operations and procurement reform for universities and possibly school districts.

Our interest in the solution to the budget crisis is to ensure that our schools are open on time and that there is adequate funding for both K-12 and higher education. Additionally, we know that our students and their families rely on State services. The funding of those services is essential to minimize the negative impact to our students and their families.

We caution you that this is just a framework and that any final “deal” would have to be approved by all the legislative leaders and the governor. We anticipate this workgroup will continue to meet to come up with a solution.

2Education Funding

There is considerable discussion in the General Assembly regarding school funding. As reported in a previous legislative update, Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) filed an amendment on SB 231 to create the Better Funding for Better Schools Act which makes fundamental changes to school funding. This bill is a continuation of his previous efforts in 2014 (SB 16) and 2015 (SB 1) to restructure education funding.

The major goal of the legislation is a more equitable distribution of state resources, driving funds first towards school districts with the fewest local resources. This bill would combine current funding from General State Aid (GSA), bilingual education, special education summer school, special education personnel, special education funding for children requiring special education services and special education orphanage (for foster students only) into a single weighted student Primary State Aid (PSA) formula. Funding for other Mandated Categorical line items would remain as reimbursement programs and the block grant for the City of Chicago would remain in place.

Distribution of funding through the PSA model would be based on a district’s ability to raise local resources and would provide for additional funding for numbers of low income, gifted, English learner, special education students, etc. The foundation level would be set in statue but could fluctuate based on the appropriation for PSA in a given fiscal year. The bill includes hold harmless provisions for districts that would lose money because of the change, which would be phased down and out over a set number of years. If passed and signed by the governor, the new funding formula provisions would go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year. The Senate passed this bill on a vote of 31-21-3. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee and is sponsored by Representative Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago).

The House Education Funding Task Force has met over the last few months to consider testimony from school districts and organizations state-wide about district financial needs and ways to change the current school funding formula. In addition, a group of school district organizations is working on a new formula based on Professor Allan Odden’s Evidence-Based Funding Model. This model also combines our current GSA and several Mandated Categorical grant lines into a single grant, weighted for various populations and best teaching practices. The foundation level is calculated by identifying the dollars needed to ensure that districts are using best practices (i.e. smaller class sizes, access to supplemental support personnel, technology, etc). At this time the organizations working on this evidence-based model do not have legislative language drafted, although the concept is being discussed by the General Assembly.

It is unknown what will happen with the school funding formula. We are monitoring all the proposals and will keep you informed of any developments.

3ESSA Roundtable for Legislators

The IEA along with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union invited legislators to participate in a Public Education Issues Roundtable (PEIR) briefing on the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The new ESSA law shifts greater authority for academic standards, school accountability and education policy back to the State, school districts, teachers and parents, creating a more balanced role for the federal government in education policy. This is an opportunity to share information about the new federal law and what it means for the future of education policy in Illinois. It is also an opportunity to provide background and information about the implementation of the law and concerns and feedback from the teachers and staff we represent.

4General Assembly Schedule

The Senate and House reconvene next Tuesday and are scheduled to be in session for 13 more days before adjournment.