Representatives of Evanston’s two school boards met early Thursday to discuss their position on state school financial reform and concluded that while they support the concept of equity, they cannot support passage of Senate Bill 16 unless it comes with more state funds for education.

Gretchen Livingston, president of the Evanston Township High School District 202 board, said she realizes that most, if not all, of increased state financial support for schools would go to the state’s poorer districts, but that it does not make sense for districts like Evanston’s to receive cuts.

She spoke during a meeting of representatives of District 202 and the Evanston/Skokie District 65 boards, held at 7:30 a.m. at District 65 headquarters. Sitting with them around a hollow square table were key staff members of both districts, including superintendents Eric Witherspoon of District 202 and Paul Goren of District 65.

Members of both boards had attended a forum Tuesday night, sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Biss, that included a presentation by State Sen. Andy Manar of downstate Bunker Hill, who was the chief sponsor of SB 16.

If that bill were to pass in its present form, it would mean significant cuts in state funding for both of Evanston’s two school districts that could force higher property taxes on Evanston citizens to avert significant cuts in existing programs at the schools.

Sen. Biss, whose district includes Evanston, voted in favor of the legislation when it passed the Senate by a 32-19 vote last May. It has yet to be considered by the House, and Sen. Manar predicted that changes in the legislation are likely before it is finally enacted by the General Assembly.

“There is no way our district can support this bill,” declared District 202’s Livingston.

Her sentiments were echoed by Tracy Quattrocki, president of the District 65 board, who said she supports the concept of equity, but that the question of adequacy needs to be addressed.

The legislation would redistribute state funds to districts, based upon their ability to pay, but would not increase the size of the pot. In fact, the state’s funding of education has declined by $1.4 billion since 2009.

Members of both boards agreed to consider a draft of a joint resolution on state funding that they can both support, but they made clear that support of SB 16, even if amended, was unlikely.

Top: Superintendents Gore and Witherspoon at Thursday’s meeting.

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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  1. Eliminate school district taxes from all IL counties

    The simplest and fairest way to fund Illinois' schools would be through the state income tax.  Whatever the state legislature decided to spend on education would be divided by the number of students attending public (or private?) schools and this would determine funding per student per school district (or school, if we include parochial education).  But wait…on second thought, that's too simple and too fair.  Sorry  :<(, my bad!

  2. Do they look worried and concerned?

    So these school board members and presidents all support the "concept of equity" but don't support SB 16, which is suppose to be about equity, because it would mean less state money for Evanston schools.

    Equity is nice but not in my backyard.

    Maybe I missed it but it doesn't appear that our school representatives made a big fuss before the House voted on SB 16. I don't believe they warned our representative,  Democrat Daniel Biss, that if he voted for the bill there would be hell to pay.

    I'm not feeling the anger or grave concern. It feels like these reps are just going through the motions. Perhaps it's because they know the money will still come. They just have to raise our taxes again. They've been doing it for so long and with little resistance that they must think it's a cakewalk.

    Taxes have gone up a lot this year. Along with the usual rise in our property taxes despite a successful tax appeal, we had to pay much more to the state and feds and our income did not rise in proportion. It's money we could have saved for our kids college education because Lord knows we are middle class and there is no safety net for us. 

    Our reps talk about equity in SB 16 but Chicago public schools are somehow exempt.

    We vote, complain to our neighbors but every year it's that same old thing. Evanstonians acquiesce like good little liberal sheep to out of control spending, chronic tax increases, rise in water rates and other services.

    I guess the thinking goes my family must pay its fair share. But I look around and see local businesses get city backed (that's taxpayer backed) loans and grants, city crews work overtime to build a 3,000 sf patio for a private business, the city spends a $1 million for a 311 call center with 20 new union hires as a good chunk of my tax money goes to pay cushy unsustainable government union pensions. Our last police and fire chief retired in their mid 50s, collecting an annual pension of 50- 75 percent of their final salary with a guaranteed annual 3 percent cost of living increase. And they both were hired in neighboring towns in the same capacity, earning another pension.

    The city spends $1 million each year in social service programs and taxpayers provide 10,000 for each D65 student and $16,000 for each D202 student. That's more than some colleges.

    Your money. Your vote.

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