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State Republicans question 'Out of control' Illinois State Board Of Education

Illinois Watchdog.Org

Saturday, February 10, 2018  |  Article  |  By Benjamin Yount

Budget--State (8) , Education reform (38) , Education--Elementary and Secondary (36) Barickman, Jason--State House, 105 , Syverson, Dave--State Senate, 35
At least two statehouse Republicans say something needs to be done about what one called the "out-of-control" Illinois State Board of Education.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, said something is wrong at ISBE.

Syverson on Wednesday said that the state board is unable or unwilling to prepare data for schools as part of Illinois' new school funding formula. And Syverson called ISBE's recent budget request for an extra $7 billion "ridiculous."

"There is a sense in the General Assembly that the state board is out of control," Syverson said. "The governor, even though his hands are somewhat tied because it is a separate state agency, is going to have to step in. There are going to have to be some changes."

Syverson added that may mean the governor will need to fire ISBE leaders and staffers. 

State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Normal,  isn't ready to go that far, but he said that ISBE must focus on its job as school administrators and not become advocates for more state spending.

"ISBE has got to get its house in order because the school kids of our state are relying on them to do their job," Barickman said. "ISBE's job is not to get involved in the politics of the moment, not to get involved in the sausage making. But instead, to implement the law as it exists."

The State Board started 2018 by approving a $15 billion budget request. That would almost double what the state of Illinois spends on public schools during the current fiscal year. But Barickman and Syverson say the request is irresponsible because ISBE board members know that Illinois doesn't have that much money to spend.

Earlier this week, ISBE leaders  told lawmakers it will be a few months before it can report back to Illinois' 852 school districts what the state's new school funding formula will mean for them. Illinois lawmakers approved that formula last summer. Many school superintendents say they can't wait for that information from the state board because they need to finalize their spending plans in the next few weeks.

Jackie Matthews with the Illinois State Board responded to the criticisms by saying they are "unsubstantiated and inconsistent with the facts."

She added that ISBE's role is to push lawmakers on educational issues.

"The role of the State Board has always been to advocate for Illinois’ students," Matthews said in an email. "The proposed public education budget states the cost of fully funding public education through the formula now in statute."