Trailing bill on $350 million education funding formula raises questions
Some GOP representatives saw the allocation of $350 million dollar in evidence-based education funding much differently than others during last week's debate in the House.
Calling trailer legislation HB5812 a long-awaited cleanup from the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Rep. William Davis (D-Homewood) said his bill made the technical changes to the new $350 million evidence-based funding formula that lawmakers passed last year.
During last week's debate, Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) brought up some of the same questions that were raised in earlier committee hearings. “I see several no votes and present concerns in the committee,” Breen said before bringing up the trailer bill and almost a dozen changes being made to the $350 million-dollar bill.
All changes were recommended by ISBE relative to the appropriate dispensing of resources in the evidence-based funding model, Davis said, which is exactly what Breen had issue with in the debate.
“As I understand ISBE is going to pass money whether we move this trailer bill or not,” Breen said. “But this trailer bill will change that amount of money per district.”
Speaking of figures, Breen brought up that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was allotted the most money for pre-K English language and that other district funding would be decreased.
“If you want to make this a Chicago issue, OK that’s fine,” Davis countered.
While their peers found serious fault with the bill, Reps. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley) and Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) supported the legislation. Pritchard proved his point by continuing to elicit questions to Davis that reminded representatives they originally voted for the bill last year.
“Is it also true that this is just dealing with the distribution of the new money we are putting in?” Prichard asked among his other queries.
Countering Prichard by citing dollar distribution, Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) said the bill would take $3 million of $4.5 million back to CPS.
“I guarantee you there is probably nobody on this House floor that can actually show you the equation and explain to you the difference between the normal curve equivalent compared to the cumulative distribution and exactly what that means,” Ives said.
She said she knows the answer because when she has asked technical questions on the funding, she was given the run around by lobbyists and bureaucrats who wrote the bill, rather than the sponsors presenting it.
“All of this is opaque and none of it is clear, and taxpayers do not know where their money is going to go or what is happening,” Ives said.
But Bourne did not seem to be bothered by the bill’s complexity, calling the naysayers nit pickers while reminding them they once agreed on the bill and needed to do so again so students would receive the funds needed to educate them.
It didn’t take Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) long to change his mind.
“You know I voted for this yesterday in committee, but I had a couple of things that were troubling me afterwards and I would like you to clarify them for me please,” Reick told Davis.
After a back-and-forth between the two, Reick said the only thing that is clear is that ISBE has answers and lawmakers who pass the bill do not, especially when students in McHenry County could be affected.
“I think it is incumbent upon ISBE that if they made these projections, that they show them to us before we are expected to vote on them,” Reick said.
HB5812 was approved 76-31 and sent to the Senate.