Local school officials are concerned about a proposal to revamp the way the state of Illinois sends state money to local school districts. The bill, known as Senate Bill 16, would more strictly tie state aid to local school districts to the wealth of a local district, which would result in a reduction in state aid to some school districts.
Poorer districts would benefit under Senate Bill 16, but school districts in more affluent areas, like Riverside, could see a dramatic reduction in state aid.
Senate Bill 16, which is sponsored by downstate Democrat Sen. Andy Manar (D-48th), passed the state Senate on a vote of 32 to 19 on May 27. Two of the Landmark area’s state senators, Steve Landek D-12th) and Martin Sandoval (D-11th) voted for the legislation. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th) and Sandoval, are co-sponsors of the bill. Lightford voted present.
But the bill is currently stalled in the state House of Representatives, and no action is expected to be taken on the bill until after the November election, if then.
But the Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 school board was concerned enough about the bill to ask state Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Riverside) to appear before the board and discuss the bill at their July 8 meeting.
Zalewski told the school board that he doesn’t expect the bill to become law in its current form.
“This is a process and we’re at the very beginning of the process,” Zalewski told the school board.
If the bill did become law in its current form, District 208 would lose nearly $1 million in state aid after the transition to the new funding formula was fully phased in.
“At the end of that four-year period we would have about an $896,000 reduction in our revenue from the state,” said District 208 Chief Financial Officer Tim McGinnis.
Other area school districts would also lose under the new funding formula, because schools districts in this area rank relatively high in property values.
Riverside Elementary School District 96 would lose $789,013 of the $1,057,917 in state aid that it currently receives, according to estimates prepared by the Illinois State Board of Education, said Zack Zayed, District 96’s director of finance and operations.
Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 would also lose out, but apparently to a much lesser extent, Superintendent Mark Kuzniewski said. Kuzniewski estimated that District 95 would lose about 10 percent of the approximately $400,000 it receives from the state.
Meanwhile, according to Superintendent Neil Pellicci, Komarek School District 94 would lose about $300,000 in state aid if the bill were to pass as is.
State aid to local school districts is currently divided between general state aid, which is in part determined by the relative wealth of a district, and categorical grants which are doled out for specific purposes, such as special education or transportation, and are not based on wealth.
Presently, about 44 percent of state aid to local school districts is based on need. Under Senate Bill 16, approximately 95 percent of the state aid to local districts would be tied to property values in the district.
“RB is not a winner in this plan,” Zalewski said. “The rebuild, as it were, is not kind to districts like RB, and I’m fully aware of that and I don’t envision any scenario where representatives like myself that represent suburban districts like RB could ever be in a position to support the bill as it’s currently written, but there are things in the bill that I think are going to end up seeing the light of day at some point”
Downstate districts would tend to be winners under Senate Bill 16, while most suburban Chicago districts would be losers.
According to McGinnis, 475 districts in the state would gain in the amount of state funding they would receive if Senate Bill 16 becomes law as currently written, while 387 districts see reduced state aid.
District 208 school board member Tim Walsh said if the bill became law and District 208 lost nearly $1 million in state aid, the school board would only have two alternatives.
“We would have to raise our property taxes a million dollars or we have to cut [programs],” Walsh said.
Walsh said Senate Bill 16 is unfair to District 208 taxpayers who already pay, according to Walsh, more than their fair share while getting little aid from the state.
“Whatever the bill is, it’s got to be fair to everybody,” Walsh told the Landmark. “It doesn’t seem like it’s really fair to all the school districts.”
Zalewski told the school board that, as a practical political matter, he didn’t think Senate Bill 16 could pass the House in its current form, because suburban Democrats like himself would not support it.
But he said that no one likes the current state funding formulas and Manar deserves credit for addressing the issue.
“I think Senator Manar at least needs to be credited for at least starting a conversation about education funding reform,” Zalewski said. “Right now the system doesn’t work for anybody as far as I’m concerned.”
This story has been changed to correct how local state senators voted for SB 16.