To begin this week’s email newsletter, I want to share with you my thoughts on Senate Bill 1 and the fight to fix the school funding distribution formula. As you may know, Senate Bill 1 would establish a new way of funding public schools in Illinois. For too long, Southern Illinois schools with lower property tax bases than our neighbors to the north have been shortchanged when it comes to financial assistance from the State of Illinois.
Senate Bill 1 as it was originally drafted was based on something called the “evidence based model”. The model is based off of evidence that suggests there are 27 elements of successful schools. The essential elements are the 27 evidence based components that ensure student needs are incorporated into the funding formula.
These include costs for class size ratios (20 students per classroom, for example), full day kindergarten, teacher training, and special education services. Each district has a unique cost for these essential elements based on the student needs of that district.
After many months of negotiations, SB 1 was taking shape to the point where many believed a fix for the school funding formula was in sight. That was until Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel sent his lobbyist to Springfield in late May to twist some Democrat arms. As a result of pressure from the Mayor of Chicago, SB 1 was amended to include a bailout for Chicago public schools.
Under SB1 & SB6 (the budget bill) there is an additional $778M invested in K-12 Education. Under the amended SB 1, CPS would receive $495M of that $778M. That is 64% of all new money! Keep in mind that CPS has only 19% of the students in Illinois public schools.
Also, $215 million of the $495 million allocated to Chicago in the current version of SB 1 would be used to pay Chicago teacher pension system payments in perpetuity. That redirection of state funding would be unprecedented and is not something we can support. That pension payment, in combination with the block grant that Chicago Public Schools gets for special education and transportation services, along with regular general state aid payments to CPS would give Chicago schools 3 bites at the funding apple. That is fundamentally unfair.
The plan that I can support eliminates that extra $215 million payment to CPS pensions and allows that money to be redistributed through the new evidence based model formula. In order to fix SB 1 to reflect the right priorities for public schools in Illinois, I am supporting a plan offered by Governor Rauner that includes a “re-write” of SB 1 via the amendatory veto tool that the Governor has. Eliminating those extra pension payments for Chicago would result in a more fair and equitable distribution of funding to K-12 schools.
My representative district is home to dozens of public schools. Using the most up to date analysis made available by the Illinois State Board of Education, almost all public schools in the 115th district is considered to be in the category of those most in need of additional state funding. Applying the Governor’s proposed fix to SB 1 would mean that all of the schools that I represent will receive more funding than if the bill becomes law with the Chicago bailout language included.
I am urging that Senate President John Cullerton to release his hold on SB 1 and allow the Governor to amendatorily veto SB 1. This will ensure our schools will open on time and that Chicago does not get a bigger piece of the education budget than they should. We need a deal that is fair to all taxpayers. The right plan is Governor Rauner’s plan to fix Senate Bill 1.
Annual Senior Health Fair in Carbondale
We enjoyed a great turnout at the Annual Senior Health Expo in Carbondale. This year I co-hosted the event with State Senator Paul Schimpf.
I want to say a special thanks to Mayor Mike Henry and the city of Carbondale for having us and providing a first rate facility at the Civic Center!
The city of Carbondale is busily preparing the City Hall and the Civic Center for the upcoming solar eclipse. It was very nice of Mayor Henry and the great staff at the Civic Center to make such great accommodations for the event!
In all, 57 vendors were on hand to provide blood sugar and cholesterol screenings, vision and hearing tests, blood pressure screenings, and information on a wealth of other services available to area seniors.
Thanks to everyone who attended for coming and thank you to our vendors who provided some fantastic door prizes for the attendees. I look forward to seeing everyone next year!
Jefferson County Youth 4 H Auction
This week I was very happy to support Jefferson County 4H. This year Rick and I purchased a hog raised by Sarah King of Woodlawn, Illinois. Congratulations on a job well done Sarah!
Rick and I stopped by DuQuoin High School this past Sunday afternoon to witness the Parade of Champions for the 2017 NubAbility Camp. These wonderful campers,who are limb different, are coached and compete in their chosen sport. Look at these smiling faces. I want to say a big thank you to Sam Kuhnert, Jana Kaye Kuhnert and all the volunteers who work so hard to make this such an awesome experience for these kids and their families.