Following a public forum to discuss the negative impact a massive rewrite of Illinois’ school aid formula would have on suburban school districts and property taxpayers, area legislators say they are more committed than ever to fighting the progress of Senate Bill 16.
The lawmakers convened the forum October 7 at the St. Charles North High School Auditorium. More than 300 people attended the event, where legislators and school superintendents from across Kane County spoke about Senate Bill 16, explaining the detrimental consequences that would ensue for suburban schools and taxpayers if this legislation is passed.
“I joined State Representatives Mike Tryon, Tim Schmitz, Mike Fortner, Bob Pritchard and several local superintendents on October 7 to help spread awareness on how Senate Bill 16 will adversely affect suburban schools if immediate action is not taken,” said State Senator Karen McConnaughay (R-St. Charles). “It is essential to inform suburban residents about an education funding reform plan that shifts even more money from the suburbs to Chicago is essential. Senate Bill 16 would strip suburban schools of almost all their state funding and ultimately shifts the burden to suburban property taxpayers.”
As a member of the Senate Education Committee and the Education Funding Advisory Committee (EFAC), Senator McConnaughay reminded attendees at the forum that Senate Bill 16 was created behind closed doors by Democrat leaders and continues to be discussed without offering Republicans “a seat at the table.” Despite ongoing efforts by Republican legislators to offer specific suggestions on how to improve equitability in Illinois’ school aid formula, they have been ignored.
“I fully support the need for comprehensive reforms to the school funding formula, but SB16 is not the answer," said State Representative Mike Tryon (R-Crystal Lake). "Rather than creating equity so that all Illinois students can leave high school and be college and career ready, this bill simply creates a new list of funding winners and funding losers. I know we can do better."
Estimates from the State Board of Education forecast that 73% of Kane County school districts will lose $500,000 to $8 million as a direct result of Senate Bill 16. Some individual schools would lose as much as 80% of their current state funding. As a result, already high property tax rates in Kane County could potentially increase to make up for the lost revenue.
“If enacted into law, Senate Bill 16 would profoundly change the way the state funds elementary and secondary education,” said State Representative Tim Schmitz (R-Batavia). “The financial impact in our communities would be significant and it is important that taxpayers, parents, and the education community understand the ramifications Senate Bill 16 would have on education in Illinois.”
Illinois has been looking for ways to provide students with equitable and adequate education funding for nearly 200 years observed State Representative Bob Pritchard (R-Hinckley). “While this latest effort recognizes that more funding is necessary to educate certain students, it ignores our over reliance on property taxes to fund education and too little support from the state. We also must confront the rising cost of preparing our students for college, careers and life.”
Currently, suburban property taxpayers pay roughly twice as much as their Chicago counterparts, only receiving a dismal percentage of state funding compared to Chicago. Chicago receives 50% of its total education funding from state and federal resources. However, suburban school districts, such as St. Charles 303, receives only 11% in state and federal resources. This disparity would widen further if Senate Bill 16 passes the House of Representatives, noted Sen. McConnaughay.
Sen. McConnaughay explained that schools in her 33rd District, like St. Charles 303, are already funded almost entirely from local property taxes. St. Charles 303 is currently funded 89% by local property taxes. Under Senate Bill 16, suburban schools lose 78% of what little state funding they receive for education, taking resources away from students and placing additional burdens on local taxpayers. Additionally, it means that to maintain current funding levels property taxpayers would be on the hook to make up that difference.
"District 303 is an average spending district with above average results. Our community support is what makes us great. This bill would both hurt our district and our taxpayers,” said School District 303 – St. Charles Superintendent Dr. Donald Schlomann.
Though the success of Illinois’ suburban schools is largely dependent on local property tax revenue, the significant state funding cuts for suburban schools that would be made under Senate Bill 16 could be devastating for suburban school districts such as St. Charles 303 and taxpayers.
Senator McConnaughay and many of her suburban colleagues are calling for an end of the Chicago bailouts by stopping Senate Bill 16 from shifting more funds from suburban schools to the Chicago Public Schools (CPS). The redistribution of wealth only creates new “winners” and “losers” and does nothing to address the inequities in the state’s school funding formula, Sen. McConnaughay said.
Members of the Oct. 7 panel agree the current school aid formula needs to be revised, but argue Senate Bill 16 is not the answer. Reverting back to the drawing board and giving everyone “a seat the table” are the necessary steps to improving equitability in Illinois’ public education system.
Materials distributed at the Oct. 7 forum can be found on Senator McConnaughay’s website at http://senatormcconnaughay.com/.