Evidence based school funding advocates scored a victory with the signing of Senate Bill 1947 (SB 1947) by Governor Bruce Rauner on Aug. 31.
Advocates who had previously championed Senate Bill 01 (SB 01), which according to its synopsis, would have amended the School Code to account for evidence based school funding, were forced to switch gears to support SB 1947 after SB 01 failed to override an amendatory veto issued by Rauner on Aug. 1. SB 01 captured only 63 votes, which were several votes shy of the necessary three fifths of the majority to complete the override. According to its latest synopsis, SB 1947 creates the Invest in Kids Act which, among several educational initiatives, will introduce and implement an evidence based funding formula effective immediately.
The benchmark for success for SB 1947 is clearly defined. Specifically, Section 18.8.15 – C of SB 1947 states the goal of that piece of the legislation is to, “eliminate the achievement gap between at-risk and non-at-risk students by raising the performance of at-risk students and not by reducing standards.” For an explanation of the evidence-based model elements visit: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/100/SB/PDF/10000SB1947ham005.pdf.
Taylor Beale, a community organizing fellow with Illinois For Educational Equity (ILEE), has been active in the fight for an evidence based funding formula for many, many months. She said, leading up to final vote, ILEE hoped to change the minds of a few elected officials in opposition to SB 01 as the benefits of the legislation were too great to ignore. She said ILEE reached out to State Rep. David Harris (53rd Dist.), State Rep. Steven Andersson (65th Dist.), and other elected officials.
“This is not just a one-time formula, this formula is going to be a long term effect for school funding so we really need them to put the pride aside and look at the whole view from it for all students’ education and not just their district,” said Beale.
State Rep. Harris, who represents portions of Prospect Heights, Arlington Heights, Mt. Prospect, told the Defender prior to the final vote for SB 01 that he didn’t believe the legislation would have the support necessary to override the veto but he did support an evidence based model for equitable education funding – he voted against both SB 01 and SB 1947, respectively. He said his concern over SB 01 stemmed from the language and the prospective resources earmarked for Chicago Public Schools’ pensions.
State Rep. Andersson, who voted in favor of SB1947, said he was a co-sponsor of an original version of SB 01 in the House entitled, HB 2808. He said he did not support elements of SB 01 and hoped a middle ground could be found because he did support evidence based education funding. He highlighted a piece of SB 01 that would’ve included Chicago Public School’s bloc grant for educational funding into the educational funding formula as one of his areas of concerns with the legislation. Andersson’s district covers portions of Hampshire, Pingree Grove, South Elgin, St. Charles, and Campton Hills.
Prior to the signing of SB 1949, the Chicago Urban League previously issued the following statement in support of SB 01:
“Education is not a Chicago, central Illinois or downstate Illinois issue. We are concerned about all Illinois students, and rather than pit students against each other, we must instead invest in their futures. If our leaders do not get this bill done, we may lose the only viable chance at an equitable school funding system the state of Illinois has seen in decades.”
“An equitable school funding system is imperative for Illinois students. Our CULtivate research report released in February found that there are a myriad of ways that our current educational system significantly disadvantages low income families, particularly African American students living in poverty,” said Shari Runner, President and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “Our poorest districts should not be the ones that have to suffer the most. Our district needs this new formula to finally put an end to over decades of inequity.”