Rep. Wheeler’s Letter to the Editor on School Funding

Students, parents and teachers deserve to have schools open on time.  Taxpayers deserve to have their taxes support the school districts where they pay taxes.   Unfortunately, school funding is unnecessarily in jeopardy this fall because of political games in Springfield. 

Our children’s educations should not be at risk due to a manufactured political crisis designed to send more money to Chicago. Schools in Oswego and Yorkville are scheduled to start on August 16th.  State aid payments to local school districts need to be sent by August 10th.  The Illinois State Board of Education needs to prepare vouchers for those payments by August 3rd.    The holdup is that the current bill regarding school funding, SB1, has been held in the Senate since May 31st on a purely procedural measure designed to create pressure on legislators. 

The Governor has stated plans to use and amendatory veto when he receives the bill to remove the special treatment for Chicago which lawmakers can sustain or override.  Chicago Democrats want to override the veto but don’t currently have the votes.  That explains the pressure.

Both sides agreed that a new funding formula should be used to send more state education funds to districts with higher levels of poverty.  Until the Democrats made last minute alterations to that plan to treat Chicago Public Schools (CPS) differently, there was agreement about the evidence-based model and how it would distribute new education funding while making sure no district lost funds.

  • The special treatment for Chicago costs Oswego 308  $2,908,401 this year.
  • The special treatment for Chicago costs Yorkville 115  $186,394 this year.
  • The special treatment for Chicago costs Aurora West 129  $2,372,026 this year.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that legislators, especially those who get angry constituent calls about exorbitant property taxes, are going to pay very close attention to school funding changes since education is such a large portion of most property tax bills.  If constituents are paying higher income taxes to provide additional funding for education, then their legislators should strongly advocate that the school districts they represent should receive their appropriate portion of that new state funding.   

Unless the Democrats find more votes for an override, everyone in Springfield will have to negotiate a modified version of SB1 that treats all districts and taxpayers fairly, provides better support for poorer districts, and gets schools open on time.  That is our task in Springfield later this week.