Senator Steans

August 30, 2017

Dear Friends,

 

Yesterday the Senate passed a historic school funding reform measure to replace a decades-old formula that has led to the most inequitable school funding system in the nation. After years of negotiations, Illinois is poised to move forward with an evidence-based school funding model that will more adequately and equitably fund schools for all Illinois children. It strives to level the playing field by funneling new money into school districts that are the least able to offer a high-quality education based on student needs, local property wealth and a district’s taxing effort. It has passed both chambers and awaits the governor’s signature.

 

School funding town hall flyerI will answer questions about this landmark school funding reform and how it affects Chicago Public Schools at a town hall on Thursday, Sept. 7 at 6 p.m. at Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Ave. In the meantime, I wanted to provide you with an overview of what the legislation contains.

 

Senate Bill 1947 retains the language of Senate Bill 1 regarding the evidence-based funding model and adequacy levels. Under SB 1947, no school district will receive less funding than it did in Fiscal Year 2017 and funding will be distributed on a per-district basis. The legislation also retains a minimum school funding level, an idea that the governor had removed in his amendatory veto.

 

This legislation implements many beneficial changes for Chicago Public Schools. It provides $221.3 million to cover CPS’ normal pension costs for this year and establishes a continuing appropriation for CPS’ normal pension costs moving forward. CPS is the only school district in the state that pays for the employer’s portion of pension costs. SB 1947 does sunset the Chicago Block Grant, but it holds CPS harmless like every other school district so that it will not lose funding as a result of the change. SB 1947 also authorizes CPS to increase its dedicated levy for teacher pensions from 0.383 percent to 0.567 percent to address its unfunded pension liability.

 

I know many of you have concerns over the tax credit scholarship program. I do not support vouchers or using public money for private schools and would not have voted for the tax credit scholarship program if it had been a stand-alone bill. The Senate was able to override the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1, but in order for school funding reform to pass the House it needed support from both parties and compromises had to be made. The $75 million tax credit, which is a five-year pilot program, was the price tag for bipartisan support on a school funding reform measure that will benefit every school district in the state.

 

The tax credit scholarship program provides a 75 percent tax credit of up to $1 million to any taxpayer who contributes scholarship funding for students to attend private or parochial schools. Corporate donors may only donate to organizations or networks of schools, but individuals can donate to specific schools. Students who meet certain poverty guidelines may qualify for a scholarship.

 

SB 1947 also contains mandate relief that superintendents have requested. SB 1947 allows school districts to contract with commercial driver training schools and reduces the requirement for physical education to three times per week. School districts may choose to continue to require more physical education classes.

 

This school funding reform measure also includes property tax relief. Starting in fiscal year 2019, up to $50 million of funding may be appropriated to fund property tax relief grants to high-rate, low-wealth school districts. Additionally, school districts that are above 110 percent adequacy may reduce property taxes by referendum if 10 percent of voters in the district sign a petition to place the question on the ballot.

 

I’m sure many of you have additional questions. I hope to see you at my town hall next Thursday.

 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773-769-1717 or reach out online with any questions or concerns.

 

Sincerely,
Heather Steans
Senator Heather Steans
7th District – Illinois

 

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773-769-1717 (Phone) • 773-769-6901 (Fax)

 

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District Office
5533 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Office: 773-769-1717
Fax: 773-769-6901

Springfield Office
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301 S. Second St.
Springfield, IL 62706
Office: 217-782-8492