State Board of Education reports School Financial Profiles

Each year the Illinois State Board of Education completes an analysis of the fiscal condition of each school district in IL using a variety of criteria that is picked up from each year’s annual audit review.¬† Due to the continual decrease in proportional share of State Funding you can see that District 228 has moved from the highest level of financial rating to the second of four tiers.¬† Here is the ISBE FInancial Profile Page for more of the information from the State.¬† Even though many folks in Springfield want to tout that PK-12 schools were funded without a budget this year, it has been a pro-rated distribution and we are still owed more than $1.2M.¬† Many citizens of Illinois have lost optimism that schools will be funded at all for 2018 with state dollars.

Legislative proposal relating to parental rights and state testing

Last week, Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), a 34-year House veteran and a key leader in the House, sponsored a bill (HB 266), which effectively proposes that a schoolchild’s parent should have a right to decide if her child will or will not participate in state-mandated standardized tests. (In 2015 similar bill passed the house, but was delayed and was never considered by the Senate.)

Two hundred and seventy-five people filed witness slips in favor of HB 266, which was debated in a PK-12 committee on Wednesday, March 22nd. Only eleven (11) people signed slips in opposition while the remainder all showed support for the bill. But the House Committee sided with the opponents. The opponents included the Illinois State Board of Education, Advance Illinois, The College Board, Stand for Children, and the Large Unit District Association (LUDA) and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). No opponent discussed parental rights at all, instead they discussed loss of funding if participation feel below 95%, lack of data for students with IEPs, and an encouragement to not take SAT and then “not be able to get into college”.
It should be noted that there is nothing in current law to cause a state to lose federal funds by reason of low test participation rates, and that in fact no school or state has ever lost any funding as a result of low mandated test participation.

Many of the proponents of the bill cited the trending evidence that testing results are more of a product of the geography and demographics of a school, and particularly cited the growing disparities and inequities of school funding. Representative Sue Scherer of Decatur (a former teacher) argued, “When you can show me a day when every child in Illinois gets the same amount of money spent on them, that’ll be the day that I’ll agree that every child can take the same test.”

To date, the bill has been called for an additional hearing, but no action has been taken yet. As you may recall, our District was targeted by the ISBE for low participation rates, and were required to provide a participation improvement plan. This spring PARCC testing showed slightly increased participation at the elementary schools, but not much change at the middle school (no PARCC testing at GHS this year).

Another Legislative Season, More Budget Gridlock

Governor Rauner’s recent address rallied a roomful of cheers when he stated that General State Aid would be fully funded.¬† Interestingly enough, this “full funding” actually equates to a foundation level of $6,119 per student… which is precisely what the level was artificially placed at in 2010.¬† There have been a number of different Blue Ribbon panels who have offered a multitude of solutions to an inequitable and inadequate school funding formula.¬† Different policy and tax institutes will take both sides of the debate– one group suggesting that Illinois has already overfunded schools and wasted money in certain districts, the converse taking the position that we are not allocating money to places where it is most needed.

This article discusses not only the position for the Chicago Public Schools, but in general, decries the facts that the type of educational opportunities that children receive are based in large part on the zip codes of their residences.

As reported at the February Board of Education meeting, Geneseo District 228 has seen audited revenues from General State Aid decline from roughly $7M per year, to roughly $4.4M the past several years.  There are limited ways that a new funding formula may benefit our district unless the State approves an Evidence-Based Funding Model, which identifies research-based instructional strategies and resources for public schools.