Let's Get This Done

By Jason Leahy posted 08-11-2017 09:20


During the first six or seven years of my tenure at the IPA (I have lost track), my wife Ashlee and I were either announcing the pregnancy or birth of one of our kids.  (Whew, I am glad that is over! :) This year, though, marks another kind of milestone for our family as all five of our kids now have the opportunity and privilege to attend school.  Next Wednesday, our youngest will join his older sister and three older brothers at Chatham schools.  As you might expect, our home has been filled with excitement and anticipation as we learn about who their teachers will be, collect supplies, and look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.  For Ashlee and me, this season also brings a sense of gratitude that our kids are able to attend a place with caring educators who provide terrific learning experiences in a safe environment.  Plus, there is the added bonus they are all now going.  Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, this year also brings yet another milestone for my kids, their classmates, their schools, and districts across our state.  Yesterday (Thursday the 10th), our state's school districts were supposed to receive their first state aid payment for the 2017-2018 school year.  It didn't happen.  And from what I have read, it may be the first time since the Great Depression.  Further, the second state aid payment, due later this month, is also in jeopardy.

So, why are we here? The short of it is the budget passed in early July, after much political wrangling, requires General State Aid payments be funneled through a new evidenced-based funding formula which does not exist in current Illinois law.  The General Assembly passed such a formula in the form of SB 1 which Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto to on August 1st.  While SB 1 is not a perfect bill (no piece of legislation is), it is the closest we have come to providing a pathway to equity and adequacy for all our state's public school students.  Additionally, I am not aware of another piece of legislation that has received the level of vetting and scrutiny as what is contained in SB 1.  After four years of hearings, modeling, and analysis, the evidence based funding model has stood firm.

Regarding the amendatory veto, there are several things the IPA and our partner organizations find problematic.  They include:

      • Freezing school district costs at 2017 levels by deleting an annual review of adequacy targets for each district;
      • Deleting a pension cost shift accommodation, which will force a property tax increase;
      • Even if a district is currently below adequate funding, they will lose money if their enrollment declines;
      • Removes minimum state funding protections, opening the door to disinvestment in the future;
      • Removes pro-ration protection for the poorest school districts;
      • Punishes districts under PTELL/TIF laws by forcing districts to claim access to revenue they can't actually access, and decreasing the ability to access state funds based on local wealth.

So, where are we now?  The Illinois Senate is scheduled to come into session this Sunday at 2 PM.  I suspect the Senate will do two things.  First, they will vote to uphold the amendatory veto which will likely fail.  Second, they will vote to override the veto which will likely pass along partisan lines.  From there, the issue moves to the House slated to convene next Wednesday, August 16th.  The prospect of an override is more uncertain here since Republican votes will be needed.

So, what can you do?  Please take time right now to both call and email your legislators to override the amendatory veto of SB 1.  And if an override is not possible, demand a quick compromise for clean legislation that contains an evidence-based funding formula and is free of politically divisive issues.  You may also remind them that kids are now at the center of an adult-manufactured crisis.  Whether intentional or not, they are being used as a leverage point.  This is unacceptable.  As a parent, I have never given anyone permission to use my kids as political leverage.  Never have and never will...  Never.  Let's get this done.


Jason Leahy
IPA Executive Director​