Proposed state K-12 budget proposal increases funds for ETHS, decreases for CPS

Elena Sucharetza, Reporter

Evanston Township High School would receive increased funding under Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed K-12 education funding, but school officials are not expecting to budget for it.

Rauner introduced a plan to increase general funding of Illinois K-12 public schools last Tuesday by $120 million for the next fiscal year. The plan would shift resources between different school systems in the state. For example, Evanston Township High School would receive a 4.7 percent increase to funding, and Chicago Public Schools funding would be cut by 7.7 percent, according to information from the Illinois State Board of Education.

ETHS CFO William Stafford said he does not consider the proposal to have viability, as it does not address certain problems with the way funding is currently allocated. He said the plan could possibly be considered a political move to attract attention from certain groups of voters.

Under the proposal, ETHS receives about $79,000 more than CPS, Stafford said. He said to fix the problems in the state’s education system, there needs to be structural changes.

“There’s going to have to be cuts in the long run, and if nothing has changed, adding on more (general state aid) is just not going to work,” Stafford said. “I think it is a political maneuver — for this one proposal there are three others that take money away from us in other bills out there.”

Any increase or decrease in proposed funding is predicated on the variability of the school’s enrollment, the number and percentage of children living in poverty and resources afforded through property taxes in a community area, the Illinois State Board of Education said in a news release.

“Every school district in Illinois will do better under the Governor’s plan to fully fund the foundation level than they would have under the recent practice of proration, and the vast majority of school districts will receive more state money than last year,” State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith said in the release.

Publically, Rauner has attributed the cuts in funding to CPS to falling enrollment, but this view has been disputed by CPS. Rauner’s office declined to comment.

Michael Passman, a CPS spokesperson, told The Daily in an email that the drop in CPS funding cannot solely be attributed to falling enrollment, as the amount of funding cut exceeds the amount that each student would have received if declining enrollment rates stay constant.

Passman said if CPS were to lose 4,000 students — a decline comparable to that of last year — the $74 million cut would be the equivalent of a cut of $18,500 per student. This number is seven times the amount of what the district currently receives per student in general state aid, he said.

CPS spokesperson Emily Bittner said in an email to The Daily the disparity in performance between wealthier school districts in suburbs such as Arlington Heights compared to those of CPS points to a system that requires an overhaul. She said CPS “wholeheartedly” rejects both Rauner’s proposal and the formula which the funding is based on.

Stafford said Rauner ought to take steps such as increasing the state income tax that expired at the end of 2015, which would provide enough money for state services and most education funding to continue. However, Stafford added that he does not foresee the proposal carrying through.

“We don’t think this thing is going to pass,” he said. “He doesn’t have the votes, and I’m not sure why he’s doing it.”

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