Senate passes extremely flawed school funding legislation

SPRINGFIELD – State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) voted against legislation that would take hundreds of millions of dollars from downstate and suburban schools and use the money to help bail out Chicago Public Schools (CPS).           

“The bill was dishonestly presented as an attempt at reforming the way schools are funded to help poor districts, but in reality it’s nothing more than a Chicago bailout,” said Sen. Syverson. “Our students, our schools, and our homeowners shouldn’t be on the hook to pay for the corruption and bad management that has bankrupted Chicago schools.”

SB231 would have provided a boost in funding for Rockford schools, but would have devastated many other local schools. As an example, Sycamore schools would lose $860,000, Rockton $617,000, and Belvidere $175,000 per year.

The legislation offered a “hold harmless” provision to keep school funding for all schools at 2015 levels, which would then taper off over four years. But that provision would cost several hundred million dollars, and the sponsor has so far offered no funding source.

Estimates from the Illinois State Board of Education show that the legislation would represent a $750 million windfall for CPS, through changes to the school funding formula and special deals that only CPS could qualify for.

The legislation barely passed the Senate and is now headed to the House, where it is not expected to garner support. Meanwhile Republicans fear that Senate Democrats may attempt to hold up all school funding unless a similar bailout is approved.

“Even if they could find an extra half a billion dollars during this budget crisis, it would still hurt far too many schools in just a few years,” said Sen. Syverson. “Instead we should be fully funding our schools right now so that they can open on time. This will give us time to work on a better funding source that doesn’t devastate so many schools just to help Chicago.”

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