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Racial Disparities Persist in Juvenile Detention Admissions

While the total number of Illinois juveniles placed in detention facilities has declined over the years, racial inequalities persist in terms of those placed in such facilities. The state must continue to move forward with critical reforms, needed to ensure that all juveniles – regardless of race – are given an equal opportunity to lead successful lives.

Enlarge to full screen for interactive chart on rates/1,000 for Black and White Youth:

Enlarge to full screen for interactive chart on rates/1,000 for Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Youth:

Read the full report, Addressing Persistent Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Juvenile Justice Detention in Illinois, from Voices for Illinois Children:

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Reforming Education Funding

Written by John Gordon

After missing the first two installments of state payments to local school districts, the Illinois General Assembly has approved a new education funding mechanism in legislation that also includes a tax credit for scholarship donations, some school mandate relief, and several other measures.

Senate approval on Tuesday (with a vote of 38-13-4) followed a dramatic Monday evening vote (73-34-3) by the Illinois House on Senate Bill 1947. The House vote came after a failed first vote on the bill and a failed attempt to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1. The bill still needs the Governor’s signature and he has pledged to sign it.

Once signed, schools will begin to receive the approximately $6.7 billion in state funding that is currently on hold. Senate Bill 1947 contains much of the same language of Senate Bill 1. A new evidence-based formula for school funding incorporates 27 elements considered essential to high-performing schools, such as reduced classroom sizes, updated technology and computers, advanced teacher training, and increased support for English-learning students. By using the availability and cost of these elements, the formula establishes a unique adequacy target for each school district. Those that are determined to be the furthest from their adequacy targets will receive the largest share of the new dollars appropriated for education. The bill also contains a hold-harmless provision that ensure no school district sees a decrease in the funding they received in the 2016-2017 school year. Chicago Public Schools receives pension assistance from SB 1947, as the state will pick up CPS’ normal pension costs (approximately $221 million) under the bill.

SB 1947 also includes a new measure providing $75 million in tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate to scholarship organizations that provide financial assistance to low and middle-income families who send their children to private school or an out-of-district public schools. Students whose guardians earn an income of up to 300% of the poverty level will be eligible to receive these scholarships. The tax credit is worth 75% of the amount donated and is capped at $1 million per donor for a given year. An independent organization will be tasked to assess the students who receive these scholarships in comparison to similar students in public schools to determine if the private institutions are effectively instructing these students. Any approved scholarship organization must prove that it is spending no less than 95% of its contributions to provide scholarships to eligible students. This program is set to expire in five years unless it is reapproved by the legislature and the Governor.

Senate Bill 1947 also includes measures regarding property taxes. It allows Chicago Public Schools to go beyond its current legal cap on its levy for teacher’s pensions. The current rate is 0.383 on taxable property within the district. The bill allows CPS to extend that rate up to 0.567 if it so chooses. The bill would also allow for certain school districts to lower their property taxes via ballot initiative. If a school district is at 110% of its adequacy target, then voters in the district may put an initiative on the ballot that lowers the school districts property tax levy by up to 10%, granted that at least 10% of registered voters within the district sign a petition asking to do so.

The bill also:

  • Provides a certain amount of mandate relief for school districts. Districts may choose to lower the physical education requirement from five days per week to three days per week if they so choose, while also allowing for greater flexibility for students who take part in athletic extracurricular activities. School districts may also choose to contract out driver’s education.
  • Allows for the expediting of requirement waivers. Waivers that need approval of the General Assembly will be sent to the four legislative leaders for consideration. If at least three of the four leaders want further consideration of a waiver request, then the request is sent to the full legislative body. If less than 3 of the leaders send a request of further consideration, then the State Board of Education may decide to accept, modify, or reject the request without action from the General Assembly.

Once signed, the legislation is effective immediately. It is important to remember that this formula is for distributing new state dollars and its predicated on increasing state education spending by at least $350 million per year for the next ten years. Some education advocates say that this amount may not be enough to properly fix the education funding system in Illinois, even with these latest improvements. It will be vital for the General Assembly to continue to increase education spending by the state, or the new funding model may fall short of its goal of increasing the percentage of education funding that is taken up by the state and promoting education equity and adequacy across Illinois.

 

A Statement from Voices for Illinois Children President Tasha Green Cruzat on the events in Charlottesville

Voices for Illinois Children believes every child should have the opportunity to grow up happy, healthy, and safe. When a disgraceful act of racist violence and hatred rocks our nation to its core, it is never easy to digest.

There is no place for discrimination, hatred, or bigotry.  In the case of the recent brutality committed in Charlottesville, we are facing a unique despair, mourning brave leaders and the progress we’ve made as a country. As communities united by our differences, it would be unforgivable to remain silent.

Voices for Illinois Children denounces any movement that aims to make communities less safe and less welcoming for all of our children and our families. As protectors and champions for children, an element of our work is dedicated to ensuring our state’s and our country’s children do not grow up witnessing the magnitude of hate that was displayed this week. We will push forth, with more fervor than ever before, to ensure our lawmakers are prioritizing the wellbeing of the bedrock of our state and our nation: children and families.

Whether it be anger, sadness, or confusion, no feeling of despair is invalid during these deeply troubling times for our nation.  We honor Heather Heyer as an advocate for American values and beliefs. Heather and her fellow protestors honorably stood up for all of our nation’s families, regardless of color, sexual orientation, religion, and all of the other beautiful differences that make our communities incredible. For their courage and tenacity, we will forever be indebted to them. As we continue to create safer and equitable environments for our children, we will honor and remember Heather, those who were injured, and those who showed up for the foundational values of our nation, with every step we take.

Sincerely,

Tasha Green Cruzat

President, Voices for Illinois Children
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Illinois School Funding Still in Limbo

Written by John Gordon

Governor Bruce Rauner has made good on his promise to issue an amendatory veto on the school funding reform bill that passed both chambers of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by state Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) overhauled the way in which the state funds public schools by instituting an evidence-based model that would distribute new funds to schools that are furthest away from their unique adequacy targets while maintaining current levels of state funding to ensure no school district experiences a loss of state funds from the 2016-2017 school year.

The urgency behind the debate on SB 1 stems from the recently passed budget. In the budget bill, it states that approximately $6.7 billion in state funds to schools must be distributed through an evidence-based model. This means that if SB 1 or a similar bill with an evidence-based model is not signed into law before the new school year begins, then the state will not be able to legally distribute those funds. If those funds are not released, then school districts will be faced with the possibility of closing their doors if they cannot find the funds to continue.

The biggest changes to the bill from the Governor’s amendatory veto are the hold-harmless provision that ensures no school district loses money, the provisions concerning the pension obligations for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the block-grant CPS receives from the state and the minimum funding level recommendation.

Hold-Harmless

Senate Bill 1 included a “hold-harmless’ provision that ensures no school district receives less funding from the state than it did during the 2016-2017 school year. This hold-harmless provision is calculated at the per-district level in SB 1. Governor Rauner changes this in his amendatory veto by calculating a school district’s hold-harmless at the per-pupil level beginning in the 2020-2021 school year based on average student enrollment. Advocates for SB 1 point out that, under this change, if a school district experiences a loss in student population then it will lose state funding.

Chicago

In SB 1, both the normal pension costs for CPS and the block-grant are folded into CPS’ hold-harmless funding. The Governor stated this is tantamount to a bailout for CPS at the expense of suburban and downstate school districts. In his amendatory veto, the Governor takes the approximately $200 million CPS receives from the block-grant and distributes it throughout the rest of the state. He also moves the CPS pension pick-up to the pension code. SB 1 proponents argue that taking the block-grant away from CPS in the fashion that Governor Rauner does in his amendatory veto would cause CPS, by far the largest school district in the state, to lose out on new funds for classroom instruction by shifting them towards administrative costs and that moving the CPS pension pick-up is beyond the scope of his amendatory veto powers.

Funding Levels

Illinois school districts currently receive approximately 25% of their funding from the state, with majority of the remaining funding coming from local sources of revenue, namely property taxes. One of the main goals of SB 1 is to increase the percentage of state funding to Illinois schools over the next decade. The stated funding objective laid out in SB 1 is to increase state funding by $350 million per year. If that amount is not appropriated, then whatever increased amount is appropriated will be dispersed more progressively to school districts that are furthest away from their adequacy targets. In his amendatory veto, Governor Rauner eliminates that language and does not replace it with any figure. Not maintaining the $350 million level will delay the goal of decreasing the reliance on local dollars within a decade and will make it difficult for more school districts to reach adequacy levels set in SB 1 than if the funding minimum level is maintained at its current level.

The General Assembly now has 15 days from the issuance of the amendatory veto (August 1st) to either accept or reject the Governors amendatory veto. Both would require a 3/5 majority vote. If neither action occurs, then SB 1 dies. If that happens, then Illinois will be facing a full-blown crisis as state funding for schools will be withheld and many school districts will be forced to take drastic measures if they hope to remain open for the full school year.

Damage to Women and Families Persists in Wake of Budget Impasse

Chicago Foundation for Women, Voices for Illinois Children, and Loyola University Chicago’s Center for Urban Research and Learning today released a new report on the impact of Illinois’ budget impasse on women and children. The report, titled “Damage Done: The Impact of the Illinois Budget Stalemate on Women and Children,” was prepared by Voices for Illinois Children and Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning. Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, including low-income women of color and their children, continue to bear the burden of the state’s two-year impasse, which delayed payment of contracts to social service providers and resulted in significant cuts in staff and services that cannot be quickly replaced.

Download (PDF, 1.05MB)

The new state budget and education funding: still waiting

Written by John Gordon

K-12 Education Funding Left Hanging in the Balance for Upcoming School Year

Illinois has a state budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) that began on July 1st but not the means for appropriating the dollars for K-12 education. While the legislature overrode Governor Rauner’s vetoes of the state budget and revenue bills, the budget bill (Senate Bill 6) contained language stipulating that the majority of the dollars set aside for elementary and secondary education were to be allocated according to an “evidence-based formula.” The result of this decision is that public schools in Illinois remain in jeopardy of not opening on time or only being able to stay open for a short period of time.

The amount appropriated for evidence-based funding is approximately $6.7 billion in general funds and reflects a consolidation of five prior education line items (General State Aid, bilingual education, transportation for special education students, special education personnel, and services for extraordinary special education pupils). This is an increase of $776 million from the FY 17 funds. The formula incorporates $5.9 billion in general funds into the new formula as part of a “hold-harmless” provision, which ensures no school district receives less funding from the state than they received in the 2016-2017 school year.

The evidence-based formula, by which this pool of dollars is to be allocated, is outlined in SB 1.  That bill combines 27 weighted elements into the current school aid formula including the number of low income students, special education students, students for whom English is not their first language, and up-to-date text books. The amount of money the district received in the last academic year (a district’s “Base Funding Minimum”) is then combined with the district’s local available resources. Match that against the adequacy level and the difference determines the additional state funding for the district under SB 1 -with more money going to those districts further away from their adequacy level.

The formula then separates school districts into four tiers based on their adequacy targets, with districts in Tier 1 being the furthest away from their adequacy target and districts in Tier 4 being at or above their targeted level. There is a little over $353 million in funding allocated to help districts make gains towards their targets, with 99% of the funds going to districts in tiers 1 and 2.

The main point of contention between the proponents of SB 1 and the Governor is that the FY 18 normal pensions costs for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is incorporated into CPS’ Base Funding Minimum (approximately $221 million). The Governor believes this is equivalent to a “bailout” for CPS, while CPS and the advocates of SB 1 argue that Chicago is placed at a disadvantage because the state picks up the pension costs for every other school district.

As a consequence of the Governor’s threat, one of the Senate sponsors of the bill placed a procedural motion on it that holds the bill in the Senate and prevents the chamber from sending it to the Governor. Absent SB 1, or any similar bill, there’s no way for the State Board of Education to send the $6.7 billion to local school districts. Without the dollars, some Illinois schools may not open in August.  Others might be able to open the doors but depending on the district’s finances could not keep them open through the school year.

Therefore, either the legislature could send the Governor SB 1 and, if he vetoes it, attempt to override the veto, send a new piece of legislation, or the legislature could send SB 1 to the Governor as a part of a compromise that includes a package of other bills that he would sign into law.

Higher Education

While elementary and secondary school administrators are left wondering what will happen with their state dollars, SB 6 provides funding for FY18 (as well as funds appropriated for costs incurred in FY17) but that funding generally represents a 10% cut from FY15.

The state’s public university system suffered enormously due to the budget impasse. Five universities saw their credit rating lowered to junk status, enrollment dropped at a majority of the state universities, and Monetary Award Program (MAP) grant recipients were left with uncertainty on if their awards would be honored. (MAP provides college grants to low-income students.) Area economies that rely on a healthy university saw a downturn. With a full budget in place, these institutions and their students can begin to take stock and plan for a future with some stability.

During the last two fiscal years, Illinois funded its universities in stopgap appropriation bills. Averaging the funding for the last two years, you can see the comparison to FY15 (the last prior year Illinois had a full-year budget). The numbers show the real damage sustained by the state’s higher education system from the two-year impasse.

 

FY16-FY17 Average % change from FY 15 FY 18 % change from FY 15
Chicago State University $29,805,700 -18.0% $32,697,400 -10.0%
Eastern Illinois University $30,507,100 -29.0% $38,678,100 -10.0%
Governors State University $18,409,050 -23.5% $21,656,000 -10.0%
Illinois State University $55,258,850 -23.5% $65,004,000 -10.0%
Northeastern Illinois University $28,230,300 -23.5% $33,209,000 -10.0%
Northern Illinois University $58,747,950 -35.5% $81,983,500 -10.0%
Southern Illinois University $128,554,550 -35.6% $180,912,800 -9.3%
University of Illinois $415,221,800 -35.8% $583,005,900 -9.9%
Western Illinois University $37,377,400 -27.3% $46,300,700 -10.0%
Community Colleges $176,316,400 -36.0% $248,030,500 -10.0%

 

Not only did students face uncertainty with courses, staff, and programs cut, but there was no appropriation for Monetary Award Grants until this budget passed. Not only does SB 6 provide funding for the recently ended fiscal year ($365 million) but the program receives $401 million in funding, a 10% increase from FY 15.

While funding is in place for FY18, state university administrators still have difficult choices to make with a 10% cut from FY15. It is unclear whether faculty and staff let go by the universities during the last two years will return. In some cases, students facing the uncertainty of not having a MAP grant curtailed their academic careers. Certain university faculty, watching the financial uncertainty of the state and its universities, left the state. A state budget is in place but it may take time for our universities to recover.

SB 1- Leveling the Playing Field

Written by John Gordon

The current attempt to reform how Illinois funds school districts in the state is at a critical point. Both the Senate and the House have passed a bill that would allow new state dollars to flow to school districts in the most financial need, giving more kids opportunities for the quality education that they deserve and that is their constitutional right. Governor Rauner, while expressing support for much of what the bill proposes, declared his intent to veto the legislation. As of now, the bill remains in the Senate chamber as lawmakers and advocates attempt to persuade the Governor to sign the bill into law.

The Problem

As it currently stands, school districts in Illinois rely heavily on local taxes, largely property taxes, for funding. Roughly 67% of all school funding in Illinois comes from local taxes, while the state only provides approximately 25%.1 This has led to a very inequitable system. For every $1.00 spent on a non-low-income student, Illinois spends $0.81 for every low-income student.2 This system is also a main contributor to Illinois having among the highest property taxes in the nation.3

Senate Bill 1 aims to change this by setting a goal for increased levels of state funding for education and a system to distribute new dollars for education to those school districts in the most need of more funding. The overall goal of Senate Bill 1 is to increase funding for education by $350 million per year over the next ten years to bring the state closer to parity in terms of funding education. This funding would need to be appropriated every year by the General Assembly. The $350 million is a goal, not a set law.

How Does the New Formula Work?

One of the main provisions of Senate Bill 1 is the “Hold-Harmless” provision. This means that no school district in the state can receive less state funding than it received in the 2016-2017 school year. This is done by creating a “Base Funding Minimum Level” for each school district.

The bill also instructs the State Board of Education to establish unique “Adequacy Targets” for each school district in Illinois, based on figures that influence school spending and school needs. The adequacy targets take into account the Base Funding Minimum Level described above, the availability of local resources, and what the bill refers to as “Essential Elements” needed to ensure K-12 students in Illinois are able to graduate high school and attend college. These 27 elements have been identified by academic research. Some of the 27 elements include:

  • Up to date textbooks and learning materials
  • Up to date technology for classroom instruction
  • Increased funding for low-income and special education students
  • Increased support for students who are learning English
  • Limited classroom sizes

Where Will the Money Go?

The bill groups school districts based on how their local available income meets the established adequacy goal. The first group of districts (Tier 1) are those who are at less than 65% of their adequacy targets. The second level of school districts (Tier 2) are those who are between 65% and 90% of their adequacy targets. The third level (Tier 3) are districts between 91%-100% of their targets. The fourth level (Tier 4) are districts that are above 100% of their targets.

Per the State Board of Education, 77% of school districts in Illinois are in Tiers 1 and 2. In the bill, 99% of the new funding (the $350 million stated above) would be distributed among these school districts to increase their adequacy levels.

Property Tax Relief

Senate Bill 1 also establishes a property tax relief fund. This fund, which is also subject to appropriation, would allow school districts in high-tax, low-wealth areas of the state to receive relief in their property tax bills. If a district receives this relief grant from the state, it must reduce its levy in the following year by the dollar amount they received from the state. As stated earlier, this is subject to a separate appropriation from the General Assembly. The more the G.A. appropriates for this fund, the number of school districts that can receive this benefit will increase.

Chicago

Due to its sheer size, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) both receives and carries burdens that other school districts in Illinois do not. For example, CPS receives a block grant from the state of approximately $250 million that other districts do not receive.  However, CPS is responsible for the pensions of their unit’s teachers, while the state covers the pensions for teachers in every other school district.

The bill attempts to address both Chicago’s educational and pension needs in the bill. The block grant and CPS’ normal pension costs are added to the district’s Base Funding Minimum Level. This does indeed help Chicago with their pensions, but it comes at a cost. If these two factors were not included in CPS’ Base Funding Minimum Level, CPS would receive a larger per-pupil funding increase than they are with these two factors included.

It is important to remember that the Chicago Public School System educates roughly 20% of the state’s overall student population. Of all students in CPS, approximately 84% are low-income.4 Any attempt to reform the school funding formula in Illinois to raise the level of equity between wealthy and non-wealthy school districts will have some benefit for Chicago.

The Necessity of Proper Funding

All of the reforms in Senate Bill 1 are predicated on proper funding levels from the state. Again, the stated goal in Senate Bill 1 is to increase the level of state funding to school by $350 million per year for the next ten years. The bill does prepare for the possibility that the state will fall short of this in any given year by distributing whatever funding is appropriated more progressively to those districts furthest away from their adequacy targets. This would reduce the level of new funding to schools in Tiers 3 and 4 to practically zero. But the lower the amount of new funding from the state, the less effective the formula will be at reducing inequality. The reduced funding will also continue to place the burden of school financing on local tax dollars, which is the biggest drivers of the inequity among school districts in Illinois.

This makes the need for a full budget agreement this summer and a return to the normal year-to-year budget process all the more critical. If the state continues down its current path, a new funding formula will be lost among the instability and financial ruin.


1. Illinois State Board of Education 2015-2016 Report Card

2. The Education Trust

3.New York Times, March 10, 2017 “Highest and Lowest Property Tax Rates in the U.S.”

4.Illinois State Board of Education 2015-2016 Report Card, Chicago School District 299