Evanston school board members sign resolution in opposition to Illinois Senate bill

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and School District 202 board members unanimously adopted a joint resolution last week that outlines the school boards’ opposition to a state Senate bill that would redistribute funds so that the state’s lower income districts are provided for.

The Senate bill, also known as the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, would result in both school districts losing about $9 million total in state funding, according to the resolution.

A community legislative group and the District 65-District 202 school board committee decided that a joint resolution, approved at the joint committee meeting on Nov. 3, would be the best way to voice opposition, District 202 board President Gretchen Livingston told The Daily. A joint resolution is not done often, however the matter was significant enough for one to be written, she said.

Livingston took on the task of drafting the resolution with contributions from both districts. The District 202 board has been discussing the Senate bill since it was initially filed in the state legislature, Livingston said.

District 202 board member Bill Geiger said the resolution is “digestible” and did a good job defining both district boards’ issues with the bill.

“By taking significant funds from both District 65 and 202, it would have a devastating impact on both districts in terms of ability to provide quality education that taxpayers in Evanston expect,” Geiger said.

A particular problem the resolution addresses is that although the state Senate bill acknowledges inequity in school funding, it does not attempt to solve inequity well.

“The answer to the inequity of a system that forces local communities to take on an obligation of the State is not to penalize those who take on that burden but for the State to acknowledge its own obligation and properly fund education across the State,” the resolution says.

Although the current system is wrong in basing students’ education on where they live, it is also unfair for taxpayers to carry the burden of the education the state is supposed to provide, Livingston said.

“It’s nice that the legislature has recognized there’s a problem, but I would also say they’ve been complicit in that problem for a very long time,” she said.

District 65 board member Candance Chow said the bill fails to address the needs of individual children and families in Evanston and Skokie since both towns are overall high-resourced communities.

“It’s looking broad-based at the resources of the community without looking at the true needs of individual kids and families in the district,” she said.

With the reduced funds, District 65 will be less able to help families in need and fund programming targeted to families, Chow said.

The resolution is not only aimed at the legislators it was directed toward, Chow said. It is also for the parents of the community to look at so they can form their own opinions on the matter.

“It’s powerful when districts come together to do something in collaboration like that,” Chow said. “I found it to be an effective process for us. It’s a good example for the community.”

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