Members of Evanston’s two school boards heard from their lobbyist Monday night that local districts will likely not get hit as hard on state funding as a Senate-passed bill initially indicated.
Nevertheless, they were told that they are still likely to suffer without an infusion of more funds into the system.
The situation was analyzed by Erika Lindley, the outgoing executive director of Ed-Red, which represents about 80 school districts, primarily in the north and northwest Illinois suburbs.
She spoke at a biannual joint meeting of the Evanston/Skokie District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 school boards, held at the high school.
Under a revised formula included in Senate Bill 16, the local districts would lose more than 80 percent of state funding, primarily because Evanston is considered a “property-tax-rich district,” even though more than 40 percent of its students are from low-income families.
District 202 board member Jonathan Baum noted that New Trier would not be hit as hard, primarily because they have fewer low-income students covered under a number of state-funded programs for such purposes as special-needs and bilingual education.
Lindley noted that only two of the eight members of the Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee, which crafted the new funding formula, actually voted in favor of it, leading her to conclude that “there’s a lot more work to be done” before the legislation completes its journey through the General Assembly.
She noted that the Illinois plan was modeled after one in Massachusetts, the principal difference being that Massachusetts ponied up an additional $1 billion for education, while the Illinois plan merely reshuffles current funding without adding to the pot.
Maintaining the higher state income tax rates that are scheduled to decline next year is essential, she said. Also, districts should be freed from following state mandates if education funding is to be maintained at the local level.
A redefinition of a low-income student could also provide some relief, Lindley added.
During what she called the “summer study phase,” legislators will be tweaking the provisions of the bill before it is considered by the House when the legislative session resumes in the fall.
In other matters, the two boards, headed by District 65 President Tracy Quattrocki and District 202 President Gretchen Livingston, passed a resolution permitting them to share student achievement data and discussed at length a comprehensive program for achieving a goal of “disciplinary literacy” of students as they progress from kindergarten through high school.
Top: District 65 President Quattrocki and District 202 President Livingston as they prepared to call the joint meeting to order.