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At the Joint District 65/202 School Board meeting held on March 16, Bill Stafford, chief financial officer of School District 202, gave an update on Senate Bill 1, which proposes to revamp the way in which the State funds education. SB1 is the revised version of last year’s Senate Bill 16, which became defunct at the end of 2014.

SB1 uses SB16 as its base, and it makes some changes. SB1, however, does not include many of the changes that the RoundTable advocated for in a series of editorials last year. As of March 16, ISBE had not yet estimated the impact SB1 would have on school districts. On March 24, though, ISBE published its analysis of SB1 on its website. For Districts 65 and 202 the impact is about the same as it was under last year’s SB16.

Under SB1 District 65 would lose about $6.6 million in State funding on an annual basis, or about 85% of its State funding. It would lose this funding even though 42% of its students are from low-income households, 13% are English-language learners, and 13% have a disability.

District 202 would lose about $2.2 million on an annual basis, or about 81% of its State funding, even though 38% or its students are from low-income households. 

These losses in funding would be phased in over four years.

Another bill thrown in the hopper is Senate Bill 1403. SB 1403 proposes to create a Professional Judgment Panel, which would be required to submit a final recommendation for full funding of an equitable and adequate educational opportunity for all students by the 2020-2021 school year. The bill thus proposes further study.

On the House of Representatives side, Michael Madigan, Speaker of the House, and Jim Durkin, House Republican Leader, have created a bipartisan House Task Force to study “the way in which the State distributes funding to Illinois public schools.” That task force held its first meeting on March 11, according to a report prepared by the Illinois Association of School Boards. The task force members discussed SB1 and SB1403 and expressed a desire to hear more from educational stakeholders.

District 65 and 202’s lobbyist, ED-RED, has stood on the sidelines with respect to SB16, and it may follow suit with respect to SB1. ED-RED decided not to take a position on SB16 because some of its school district members would benefit under the bill and others would suffer. ED-RED said it had a conflict.

At the March 16 meeting, District 65 Board member Richard Rykhus asked if other school districts that are members of ED-RED are in the same position as Districts 65 and 202.

District 202 Board President Gretchen Livingston said that a majority of ED-RED’s members stood to lose State funding under SB16, but there were a smaller number who stood to gain. Ms. Livingston said she thought Districts 65 and 202 should ask ED-RED to take a position opposing SB1, and that they should ask other school districts to join in that request.

Representatives from School Districts 65 and 202 plan to participate in Evanston Lobby Day in Springfield on April 14 and to meet with legislators at that time. Mr. Stafford said the City of Evanston estimates that it could lose about $3.5 million annually under Governor Rauner’s proposed budget which would stop remitting a portion of the State Income Tax specifically designated for cities.