For Immediate Release
April 12, 2013
State Board of Education calls for full General State Aid Funding before Senate Appropriations Committee
$875 million increase would mean full Foundation Level per pupil funding for first time in three years
SPRINGFIELD– Members of the Illinois State Board of Education urged legislators to accept the State Board’s recommendation for an $874 million increase in the P-12 state education budget in order to restore a nearly equal amount in cuts – $861 million – since Fiscal Year 2009. The cuts have meant underfunding the minimum per-pupil level set in state statute by legislators themselves, forcing districts to cut thousands of teachers, increase class sizes and reduce or eliminate physical education, fine arts and extracurricular activities.
“Education in Illinois at this point in time is really a Tale of Two Cities, the best of times and the worst of times,” State Board Chairman Gery J. Chico told committee members. “Never before have we seen the types of improvements occurring on local and state levels that are driving student growth, while at the same time districts across Illinois are struggling to keep the lights on and the doors open.”
Chairman Chico said the State Board’s recommendation would mean the state could fully fund General State Aid for the first time in three years, providing the legally-required per-pupil Foundation Level of $6,119 set as the `floor’ or minimum that schools should spend on the education of each student. Because of inadequate state funding, districts have received prorated General State Aid at 89 percent of the statutorily-set Foundation level. That proration effectively decreases funding to an effective per-pupil Foundation Level of $5,734 this year, resulting in a subsequent shortfall of hundreds of thousands to several million dollars in lost state funding to local districts.
For more information see http://www.isbe.net/funding/pdf/gsa-historical.pdf and a district-by-district spreadsheet of the shortfall at http://www.isbe.net/budget/FY14/fy13-gsa-comparison.xlsx.
As a result, districts statewide have eliminated at least 6,400 teacher and aide positions, expanded class sizes, eliminated or reduced classes such as music, art and physical education and eliminated extracurricular activities such as sports and clubs. Two thirds of districts report they are deficit spending this school year, meaning they are spending more than they are taking in.
That reality contrasts sharply with what the Education Funding Advisory Board (EFAB) recommended earlier this year in a report to the General Assembly. EFAB, established by the General Assembly itself, uses a national funding formula that shows adequate funding for Illinois schools would mean an increase of $2,553 per pupil, raising the Foundation Level to $8,672 per pupil, or an additional $4.7 billion in total GSA funding.
The report points out that nearly half of all Illinois students are now classified as low income, noting the growth has taken place in all geographic regions of the state but most dramatically in the collar counties where districts saw a nearly 44 percent increase in their low-income population since Fiscal Year 2011.
The report states that while members of the EFAB recognize the state’s dire fiscal challenges, “the lack of adequate funding for basic education is a failure of the state’s moral and fiduciary responsibilities,” and the report goes on to urge the Governor and the General Assembly to work together to increase the resources available for public education in order to help children succeed in the 21st century global economy. A copy of the EFAB report can be found at http://www.isbe.net/EFAB/pdf/final-report-01-13.pdf.
Chairman Chico and State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch as well as Board Members Andrea Brown, a former Regional Superintendent and Superintendent of the Cairo Unit School District 1 and Melinda LaBarre, a former Springfield Public School District 186 teacher and principal, presented the Board’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget request at Friday’s hearing. The Board’s full recommendation is posted on ISBE’s budget page at: http://www.isbe.net/budget/.
Superintendent Koch noted that as schools are dealing with the $861 million reduction in state funding, they have also received less funding from local tax revenue due to the recession and corresponding decline in assessed home values and assessed value limits imposed by the legislature. They are also facing federal cuts to take effect next school year under sequestration that will impact funding for several programs and services, primarily those that serve students from low-income families and those with disabilities.
“The impact isn’t just superficial cuts, the reduction means cuts to the classrooms,” Superintendent Koch told the committee. “It means cuts to services and to kids. It means not providing a high quality public education system for all students, as required in the Constitution.”
State cuts have meant that during the past four years more than a dozen line items have been reduced from the state’s P-12 education budget and another three dozen line items have been totally eliminated during that time. Meanwhile, districts have been asked to implement new state initiatives, such as the more rigorous Common Core Learning Standards and new principal and teacher evaluations.
In addition to the increase in General State Aid funding, the Board is asking for $20 million as districts look to strengthen their existing plans and security measures in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut. The matching grant program would provide approximately $5,000 per school in a matching grant program for FY14 to help school districts improve school building security.
Friday’s hearing was the second of several before lawmakers as the General Assembly develops a final FY 2014 budget to go before the Governor in the summer of 2013.
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