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.