Advocates and supporters of equitable educational funding throughout Illinois secured a tentative victory from the state legislature — all that remains is a few strokes from Governor Bruce Rauner’s pen to make it complete.
The state legislature passed the Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act (SB 0001) in the Senate and House on May 31. The Act narrowly passed the Senate with 35 votes in favor and 22 in opposition, and the House had 60 votes in favor and 52 in opposition.
The Evidence-Based Funding for Student Success Act, according to its synopsis, amends the school code and would take effect immediately with gubernatorial approval.
Jade Jenkins, Illinois for Educational Equity regional strategy team member, said prior to the vote dozens of school district superintendents traveled to Springfield to lend their voices in support of the Act. She said that she’s been advocating for education equality for a long time and called the Act’s passage a “win for the entire state.”
“I hope this inspires our teachers, our students, so that they can make changes in their society and make change,” said Jenkins. “They can advocate for themselves and make a lot of the issues, whether it be education or health; this wouldn’t have happened without the support of parents, teachers, and superintendents.”
However, State Sen. Donnie Trotter (Dist. 17th) filed a motion to reconsider the vote on the same day of its passage. Jenkins said with the bill on hold, it provides advocates and supporters additional time to raise the level of support.
Meanwhile, Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis said, Rauner, while an advocate for equitable school funding, found several items in the Act he wants to augment before signing off on the measure. She said the governor’s suggested changes were based on the findings of his commission on equitable funding. Rauner commissioned the creation of the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission on July 12, 2016, to address inadequacies in school funding on a statewide level. Purvis highlighted three specific items for changes:
- Per the findings of the Commission, Rauner would prefer a per-pupil funding model compared to the Act’s proposed base funding minimum.
- According to Rauner, Chicago Public Schools must choose between its $215 million in pension costs and health care costs for retired teachers and a $250 million block grant.
- Finally, Chicago Public Schools’ fund would be reduced to account for “unfunded pension liability costs.”
Purvis explained one of Rauner’s primary concerns is that once he signs the Act and Chicago Public Schools’ hold is taken into consideration, the remaining funds would only make marginal improvements to the rest of the districts throughout the state.
“The Governor respects the work of legislators like Representative (Will) Davis, Senator (Andy) Manar, Senator (Jason) Barickman, and Representative (Robert) Pritchard for their work to advance legislation,” she said. “His hope is that they will use the opportunity afforded by Senator Donnie Trotter, who has held the bill for consideration, to continue to compromise and find a solution that ensures that all 852 districts in Illinois are treated equitably.”
State Rep. Will Davis (Dist. 30th), one of the chief sponsors of the bill in the house, said he’s been advocating for equitable funding in education since his first term in office. He called the bill a “vital first step” toward providing every school district the resources it needs to educate their students. He recognized too that with the eventual signing of the bill by the governor, proper funding will be essential for its success. He said accompanying bills along with the governor’s support will be pivotal.
“If [Rauner] feels like he’s not ready to support some of the other spending areas, we certainly hope he is ready to support necessary dollars in K-12,” said Davis.
Davis said he’s willing to visit any district that will have him to talk to residents about why the Act was supported. He said he’s been invited to participate in a town hall meeting with one of his colleagues, State Rep. Carol Sente (Dist. 59), in the northwest suburbs of Chicago about the Act on June 20.
“We want to make ourselves available, we’re not hiding from this, we’re not hiding from anything we did, we feel strongly about the way we are supporting the kids throughout the entire state of Illinois, and if someone else has a question, because this was a very tough vote to take in some cases, we want to make ourselves available to answer any questions,” said Davis.