Saying cuts to education in Gov. Pat Quinn’s new budget disproportionatey affect downstate and suburban schools, Rep. Pam Roth and Sen. Sue Rezin called for relief from underfunded mandates and greater transparency.
“We need to have an honest discussion about school funding,” Rezin said at a joint press conference Monday at the Morris Community High School Dist. 101 board room.
“We need to bring some balance to school funding in Illinois.”
The two local politicians unveiled a report by the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus that argues the Chicago school district, despite representing 18 percent of the state’s student enrollment, receives more than its share of state education funds.
Education funding falls into six areas: Foundation Level Grants; Property Tax Extension Limititation Law Adjustments; Corporate Personal Property Tax Replacement Grants; Poverty Grants; Special Education Grants; and Early Childhood Education Grants.
According to the report, Chicago schools receive 37 percent of early childhood funds, 49 percent of PTELL adjustments, 27 percent of CPPRT funds, 47 percent of poverty grants, and 30 percent of special education grants.
“There’s no ‘free lunch’ downstate,” Rezin said. “We believe it’s Chicago that’s getting a ‘free lunch.’”
Quinn announced $400 million in cuts to education in his budget address last March.
Rezin and Roth, both of Morris, released statements condemning the proposed cuts.
“Once again, the governor’s budget is designed to maximize the pain to education in Illinois in general, but to downstate and suburban schools in particular,” Rezin wrote.
Rep. Roth echoed that sentiment in her statement at Monday’s press conference.
“The cuts to education were geared toward us downstaters and suburban schools,” Roth said.
Numerous area superintendents, including Kathy Perry of Saratoga Dist. 60C and Dr. Pat Halloran of Morris Community High School Dist. 101, were in attendance at the press conference.
Al Gegenheimer, superintendent of Minooka Community School Dist. 201, said “underfunded mandates” represent an enormous challenge to the district.
Special education, bilingual education and Response to Intervention are among the biggest, he said. They are 87.31 percent, 88.54 percent and 91.22 percent underfunded, respectively.
Another challenge to downstate districts, according to Coal City Unit Dist. 1 Superintendent Kent Bugg, is decreased funding for transportation.
Districts in Chicago and the suburbs often do not depend on school transportation, since they tend to be smaller and students live in walking distance of their schools, he said.
But rural districts are physically bigger, and depend more on transportation.
Cuts to transportation, Bugg said, “are a direct affront to rural districts.”
Rezin and Roth said multiple times that they were not looking to ignite a regional war, but to bring about balance.
“We need to have a candid discussion about school funding,” Rezin said.