Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase what the state kicks in for local public schools, bringing the amount back to 2008 levels.
It would mean more money for most school districts, but millions less for Chicago.
Rauner’s administration says the $74 million cut to Chicago is because of declining enrollment and increasing property values in the city. They also say that under the current level of funding — set by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 2008 and reduced since — Chicago would lose $189 million.
Chicago Public Schools has lost 3,000 students since last year, but district chief Forrest Claypool says the argument is misleading.
“This is not about an enrollment decline,” he says. “It’s about a broken education funding formula that today the governor is doubling down on.”
Claypool is supportive of a plan introduced last week by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) that would overhaul the current formula and send more money to the neediest students in the state, like those living in poverty or learning English as a second language.
“I think (Rauner) is in danger of being on the wrong side of history, because we have an education funding system in the state of Illinois that discriminates against low-income, poor, minority children, African Americans and Hispanic children,” Claypool said.
Other districts with steep cuts include the struggling schools in North Chicago and East St. Louis, both of which are under financial oversight.
But the governor’s proposal to fund 100 percent of what’s known as the “foundation level” ($6,119 per student) would mean millions more for suburban and downstate districts that serve high need students.
Carpentersville Unit District 300 would see a $5 million jump, as would Rockford District 205. Yorkville District 115, Oswego District 308, and Elgin U-46 would see all around $4 million more.
This is just the latest move in a broader debate among lawmakers about how much the state kicks in for local public schools. Illinois is ranked last in the country for the amount of money it contributes to local districts.
Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) has said he won’t support any school spending for the coming school year unless the entire formula is changed to help needier districts, like Chicago.
Rauner says he agrees with Cullerton that the school funding formula should be re-written, but he’s called the proposal from Manar and Senate Democrats a bailout for Chicago Public Schools. He says he won’t support a change in the formula that would cause schools to lose money.
House Speaker Michael Madigan has yet to weigh in on how to pay for the state’s public schools.
Rauner and top legislative leaders in both parties met Tuesday afternoon for the first time in four months, but it’s not apparent a compromise on school funding was reached.
Tony Arnold contributed reporting for this story.