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REZIN: SB 1124 is better for our schools

Ottawa Daily Times

Friday, July 14, 2017  |  Letter to Editor  |  

Education reform (38) Rezin, Sue--State Senate 38

How is fighting for more funding for our local schools bad policy?

Reading in The Times Letter to the Editor, Ottawa resident Bill Marsh writes about education funding reform, particularly Senate Bill 1, which I don’t support, but fails to address Senate Bill 1124, which I do support.

Schools in La Salle County fare better under SB 1124 vs. SB 1. Under SB 1124, Ottawa Elementary would see an increase of $446,000, Streator Elementary would see an increase of $459,000, and La Salle-Peru would see an increase of $280,000. That’s right, all see more funding under SB 1124 than SB 1. It’s the same theme across my district and across the state. Can’t we all get behind greater support for our local schools?

The title of Mr. Marsh’s piece, “SB1 will provide more equal education opportunities” is misleading. Under Senate Bill 1, of the $705 million new funding dedicated to K-12 education, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) would receive $494 million or 70 percent. This, despite the fact CPS has just 20 percent of the total student population in the state. That’s your definition of equal education opportunities? Maybe for CPS, but not for our region, let alone the rest of the state. If giving CPS more money in special deals at the expense of the rest of the state isn’t a bailout, what is it?

I do agree we need to change the way schools are funded in Illinois to improve funding equitability for students across Illinois. That’s why I am co-sponsoring SB 1124. This legislation reflects a compromise, and adopts the overwhelming majority of SB 1. In fact, there are far more similarities between the two bills than there are differences.

However, while SB 1124 offers CPS assistance based on evidence-based practices and student demographics, it doesn’t provide for special deals hidden in the formula designed to fix the Chicago Public Schools’ broken pension system or pay off its overwhelming debt from years of fiscal mismanagement. Instead, this plan relies on data, and data alone, to drive resources to the schools that need it most.

SB 1124 is good for all of the 852 different school districts in our state. It treats all schools the same, under a formula that is the same for everyone, in order to create equity. In fact, data from the Illinois State Board of Education shows SB 1124 is more equitable than SB 1 for all low-income students in Illinois.

The bottom line: SB 1124 is better for our schools and schools across the state. If people want to get behind legislation that is worse for our schools and schools across the state and only props up CPS, than they can go ahead and do that. But not me. I support education funding reform that helps all schools equitably and helps our schools more. Students deserve the best from Springfield, not divisive rhetoric.