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Monday, January 27, 2020

Illinois Policy Institute readies pointed analysis of Rauner's school funding veto benefits


By W.J. Kennedy | Aug 16, 2017

Schoolchildren 1000x667

The Illinois Policy Institute is preparing a report to offer a “more robust” analysis of how 97 percent of Illinois' public school districts would receive more state funding under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of Senate Bill 1, the state's K-12 funding measure.

“You have many school districts that overlap legislative districts,” John Klingner, policy analyst for the institute, told the Prairie State Wire. “By taking that into account we will have an even clearer picture of how schools benefit in legislators’ districts.”

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released the funding figures on Saturday, one day before 38 senators voted to override Rauner's veto, despite the fact that the ISBE's report showed that nearly all of them would have been providing their school districts with more money under Rauner's changes.

Gov. Bruce Rauner

One notable case is Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), who has been on a campaign to denounce Rauner's changes, saying they would cost many districts funding. According to the analysis, however, schools in his district would receive an additional $8.7 million under Rauner's plan.

Manar's office had not returned calls for comment before press time.

Klingner said it’s likely that Manar failed to account for the governor’s changes regarding two taxes programs, PTELL and TIF, that have been exploited in many cases to increase state education subsidies. Chicago is the biggest offender, analysts say.

“Under the changes, money that would have gone to Chicago would be spread more evenly and fairly to all the districts,” Klingner said.  

The institute's report “How TIFs and PTELL Warp Fairness in School Funding” noted that since 2000, school districts that are part of TIF economic development zones have been allowed to do something that non-TIF districts can’t: hide large amounts of their property wealth from the state when applying for aid.

“School districts that can reduce their overall property wealth when applying for state aid look poorer, resulting in more aid from the state,” the report said. “So for every additional dollar the state gives to districts located in TIFs, it’s one less dollar the state can give to districts without TIFs.”

In fact, the institute said that the biggest beneficiaries of the amended SB1 are many of Illinois’ neediest districts, including those in Waukegan, Rockford, Aurora, Cicero, East St. Louis and Danville. Rockford School District 205 would receive $9.5 million more in state funding, Waukegan CUSD 60 would get $6.5 million more, and East St. Louis School District 189 would receive $1.1 million more.

Under a poison pill provision added to the state budget, lawmakers and the governor are required to come up with a new school funding formula before the money can be released. A bipartisan commission agreed to an evidence-based model, but after approving SB1, the Senate held it for two months, reportedly for fear of Rauner's veto because last-minute benefits to Chicago Public Schools were added to the bill.

“We wasted two months when would could have been working towards a compromise,” Laurel Patrick, a Rauner spokesperson, said.

The House is scheduled to be in session on Wednesday, although no vote has been announced.

A House override will require 71 votes, so even if all Democrats vote for one, they would still need the support of some Republicans. If the override fails, or is not called for a vote, lawmakers would be left to negotiate a new plan as schools wait for funding.

In typical years, state funds start flowing to schools on Aug. 10.

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