Regardless of the state’s impasse on school funding legislation, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 schools will open on time on August 28, according to a statement issued today by Superintendent Paul Goren.
Nevertheless, “it remains critical that both parties reach an agreement as soon as possible,” Goren said, “as state funding is an important component of our budget.”
What particularly concerns local school officials, however, are two provisions that remain in the bill since Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto that awaits a response from the state’s lawmakers.
One would impose a two-year property tax freeze and the other would shift pension liabilities to local school districts.
“If ultimately included,” Goren warned, “both provisions would have a devastating impact on our schools.”
Goren said he feels strongly “that both should be considered apart from school funding formula legislation.”
The legislation in question, S.B. 1, would change the formula the state uses for funding local school districts. It provides more funds for low-income areas that do not have the taxing ability of more prosperous areas, such as Evanston and the North Shore.
Yet it would not decrease the amount that is currently funded by the state.
Gov. Rauner vetoed provisions in the legislation that would provide the Chicago school district hundreds of millions of dollars additional funding, calling it a “bailout” for Chicago.
Following is the full text of Goren’s statement:
“Our hope is that legislators on both sides of the aisle can work together quickly to reach a final agreement - one that puts politics aside and keeps the best interest of our students and students throughout Illinois at the forefront. We are supportive of a funding formula that does not take money away from our district and provides necessary funding for schools across the state.
“As for the funding bill itself, we are cautiously optimistic about its proposed evidence-based formula. Previous versions would have diverted much needed resources from D65 schools and the students who need it most. The funding bill, recently vetoed by the governor, contains a “hold harmless” provision that would maintain and build upon District 65’s current funding levels.
“We remain very concerned about two provisions listed within the funding bill - a two-year property tax freeze and a pension shift to local school districts. If ultimately included, both provisions would have a devastating impact on our schools. If there is legislative interest to deal with either of these topics, we feel strongly that both should be considered apart from school funding formula legislation.
“District 65 schools will open as scheduled on Monday, August 28, and we look forward to welcoming our students and staff back for the first day. Yet, it remains critical that both parties reach an agreement as soon as possible. Like other districts, state funding is an important component of our budget. Without the passage of a new school funding formula, the consequences will have a significant impact on our fund balance and the referendum resources we have reserved to balance our budget in future years. We will continue to monitor this situation.”