More than a week after the official end of the legislative session that didn’t produce a budget, Illinois lawmakers are still working on a plan to fund schools for the next fiscal year.
Madison County school districts could face problems later this fall without state funding, Robert Daiber, superintendent of the county’s Regional Office of Education, told the Record. Most districts have the financial ability to start the next school year, but local funding for some could last only a few months after that.
“This is going be strung out a while here," Daiber said. "I don’t think there’s going to be a quick end to this. This whole issue can be resolved, but there’s going to have to be serious attention to real issues.”
He said he believes the real issue is differences between state funding for districts around the state.
Bills that failed to clear both chambers before the session ended included additional funding for Chicago Public Schools. Some question whether it's fair to bail out the Chicago system when school districts outside the city support their schools at higher rates, primarily through local levies.
In 2014, Chicago spent $15,120 per student, but property taxpayers contributed only 49.1 percent of that. The rest came from state funding.
Meanwhile, Edwardsville District 7 spent $9,064 per student with local taxpayers covering 78.3 percent.
The local school district which bears the highest rate of local funding is Roxana District 1, which spent $11,940 per student — 84 percent of which was paid for locally.
To Daiber, extra state funding for CPS is a "reality."
“They have to be able to cover their cost, as well...," he said. "They cannot be in a deficit. Everybody’s got to be able to make payroll. It isn’t that I am personally in favor of Chicago Public Schools getting more money than everybody else, but they have to make their expenses.”
Some local districts look good financially because they’ve issued more bonds to cover costs, he added.
He doesn’t think proposed legislation does more than help CPS get through another year.
“I don’t think the funding proposal is one that makes them a cash cow, so to speak,” Daiber said.
A group of superintendents sent a letter Monday to Gov. Bruce Rauner, calling for changes to the education funding formula, which many in the state, including the governor, have said is broken.
Daiber said lawmakers should prioritize funding general state aid at the levels they’ve promised before funding other facets of school budgets. He said that would be a step toward fairness.
“If you can’t fund what you say you’re going to provide, you have a problem,” he said.