News

For Immediate Release
January 23, 2014

ISBE calls for State to shift focus toward economic growth in FY15 Budget; Priority needs to be on investing in tomorrow’s workforce


Calls for emergency relief for disaster-stricken districts, increases for closing achievement gaps, supporting bilingual education

SPRINGFIELD —The Illinois State Board of Education today called on lawmakers and the Governor to invest in students and the state’s economic future by changing their budgeting focus to increase the state’s share of funding for education. In order for Illinois to remain competitive nationally and internationally, Board members contend the state needs to move toward making K-12 education account for one-third of the state budget. As part of their request, the Board is asking that lawmakers honor the General State Aid (GSA) Foundation Level commitment of $6,119 per student. School districts have not received the full share of GSA promised to them under state law for the past three years.

Historically, Illinois’ State General Funds budget has dedicated approximately 27 percent to K-12 education. However, in order to increase economic vitality for the future, the Board is calling for a shift to 33 percent of the total state budget. The increase being sought on behalf of Illinois students is $1.08 billion dollars. When adjusting the FY09 K-12 education budget for inflation, the Board’s request amounts to a 1.5 percent decrease from the adjusted FY09 levels. Based on FY14 funding levels, the Board’s request would account for about 31 percent of the State General Funds budget.

“There is no doubt this is a lot of money, and some may scoff at our request, but we cannot shortchange our students, because we’re only hurting our state’s future,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico. “Even when we say that the state needs to honor the Foundation Level, it is still well below what the Education Funding Advisory Board has said is an adequate level of funding. Investing in education at reasonable levels supports Illinois students today and ensures a robust economy for tomorrow.”

FY15 Budget

In addition to the General Funds request, the Board’s recommendation includes a $450 million capital request to support districts as they improve their technology infrastructure. This funding will be targeted toward improving the connectivity of buildings to broadband internet service as well as improving the network capabilities with the classroom. This request does not include funding for individual devices.

The Board will also seek emergency funds that can be used to assist school districts in towns such as Washington, IL, which was devastated late last year by a tornado and rejected for federal disaster relief. The Board is calling for a new line item in the agency’s budget that would allow the state superintendent to respond to districts  in distress that need assistance getting their schools up and running immediately. When a disaster occurs, it’s imperative to get students back into their regular school routine as soon as possible. The $5 million being requested for district emergency assistance will allow for a rapid flow of funds to schools without having to jump through federal hoops or not qualify for federal funds. 

The majority of the Board’s requested increase would go directly to districts through the General State Aid (GSA) formula, which supports local school district general operations. The Board is requesting an $879 million increase for GSA. Central to the GSA calculation is the ‘Foundation Level,’ which is intended to represent the minimum level to adequately fund the education of a single pupil in the Illinois K-12 public school system. That Foundation Level has been set in statue at $6,119 per pupil since 2010.

In recent years, however, funds appropriated for GSA have fallen short and districts have not received full reimbursement for the last three years. In the current fiscal year, FY14, appropriated funds fell $562 million short of the amount necessary to fully pay the GSA claim, resulting in payments at just 89 percent of the amount owed to districts by statutory formula. This fiscal year is the third year in a row the state has not met its obligation under the Foundation Level.

Currently, more than half of all public school students in Illinois are now eligible for free and reduced-price lunch in our schools. Illinois’ total public school student enrollment is 2,054,155, of which 1,086,950 students are considered low-income. This increase in the number of students from low-income families is just one piece of the school funding crisis. Local resources also dwindled because of declining property values, and 62 percent of districts are in deficit spending.

“More than half of our students are from low-income families who are counting on their schools to prepare them for success in college and careers,” State Board Finance Committee Chairman Jim Baumann said before the board’s vote to approve the recommended funding levels. “This is a request that will help support our schools, which have already seen dramatic cuts to their teaching staffs and the elimination of vital academic and extracurricular programs. In addition to serving more children from low-income families, they are also receiving less local revenue due to declining Equalized Assessed Valuations. The confluence of factors makes for many lean local school budgets.”

Thursday’s Board recommendation urges the General Assembly to approve an increase of $879 million for GSA, providing a total of about $5.3 billion to fully fund claims at the $6,119 per pupil Foundation Level.

The Board recommendation still falls far short of the Education Funding Advisory Board recommendation of $8,672 per-pupil. The group last year made its recommendation for adequate education funding levels based on a national funding model. They are scheduled to update their recommendation later during FY15.

The Board is also recommending a $2 million increase in the budget to provide assistance to low-income students taking Advance Placement exams. Illinois is a leader in closing the gap for Latino AP test takers, providing additional access to college for this population. In 2013, Latino students represented 18.4 percent of our state’s student population and they accounted for 19.8 percent of those students having taken an AP exam. Illinois is also showing great progress on those Latino students scoring a 3 or higher, 16.1 percent in 2013, which was up from 14.6 percent in 2012 and 8.1 percent in 2003.

We are also improving in the number of low-income students participating in AP exams with 29.3 percent taking an exam prior to graduation in 2013, up from 12.1 percent in 2003.

“This shows that as we challenge our students and teachers with more rigor in our standards, they step up to the plate and respond positively, whether it’s closing the gap on AP or leading the nation with our universal ACT success,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “We need to continue this momentum so students continue to challenge themselves and be better prepared for college and careers when they graduate.”

Some of the proposed FY15 increases or expenses include:

As part of the budget-making process, the Board conducted a series of five public budget hearings around the state last fall where parents, citizens, local and state elected officials and others involved in education were invited to voice their priorities. More than 150 individuals provided oral or written testimony to restore or increase GSA, early childhood funding, agriculture education and other items and programs.

The Board based its decisions regarding programs and funding on several key principles, including support for the largest number of students and greatest flexibility for districts, minimizing the introduction of new programs and mandates in order to conserve resources and align to ISBE’s strategic plan goals:

The Illinois State Board of Education will provide its budget recommendation to the Governor and General Assembly for consideration as part of the overall State FY2015 state budget. The Board’s budget proposal is posted on www.isbe.net/budget.

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