SPRINGFIELD, IL – State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) opposed one measure that would radically redistribute education dollars in Illinois and supported another bill that would protect teachers from unfair dismissals. Both measures passed the Senate on May 27 and will now go to the House for consideration.
Senate Bill 16 reallocates school aid creating winners and losers throughout the state. It also continues the controversial practice of “prorating” school funding and offers a number of special benefits for the Chicago Public Schools that are not available to other school districts.
Sen. Rezin voted against the measure, saying that the bill was a good first step toward school funding reform, but more work needed to be done and noted the future of the bill in the House was uncertain.
“The work that has been done over the last year with the Education Funding Advisory Committee (EFAC) affirmed that something must be done to address how we fund education in the state,” Sen. Rezin said who was a member of the EFAC created by the Senate after Senate Republicans issued a report last year that revealed gross inequities in the way Illinois distributes education dollars.
“This measure addresses many of the issues raised in the EFAC report, but it’s not the complete package and does not address all the funding concerns that Senate Republicans raised last year. Superintendents and school administrators will tell you that proration is the biggest issue facing many school districts. Until we discontinue this practice, there’s only so much progress that can be made when it comes to changing how we fund our schools. They need to be funded 100 percent before we go about switching how much money each school district gets.”
In Sen. Rezin’s district, schools have suffered greatly under the state’s practice of proration. Currently, the Foundation Level set by the General Assembly is $6,119 per student, which is the base amount that schools should have to educate a student. However, in recent years Illinois has prorated that base, providing school districts with less than the minimum needed. As a result, school districts have had to close schools, borrow money, layoff teachers and administrators, and cut their budgets leading to program cuts and larger class sizes.
For example, Streator Elementary School District #44 has been prorated to the point where they had to cut their budget by over $5.3 million in the last five years. Their budget cuts have translated into closure of one school, dismissal of 15 full-time and 5 part-time teachers, dismissal and reduction of 11 and 49 full-time support staff positions to part-time, and elimination of 1 principal and reduction of 5 administration building positions.
In response, Sen. Rezin has co-sponsored Senate Bill 3664 which will re-establish the Foundation Level as the number one funding priority in Illinois and end proration to Illinois schools. The measure requires the Foundation Level grant to be funded at 100 percent before directing education dollars to any other grant lines or programs. Sen. Rezin noted that since the 2011 income tax increase was enacted, the state has brought in over $26 billion in new revenue, but none of that was used to fund schools.
In late January, the EFAC released a report that was a summary of the meetings they held over the last year. Sen. Rezin said the Senate Republicans who were members of EFAC had no input on that report and did not agree to it. She suggested that more feedback from all parties should have been incorporated into Senate Bill 16 and said that more work on this issue is needed if the state is to achieve true education funding reform.
Another education measure, House Bill 5546, was approved by the Senate on May 27. House Bill 5546 makes changes to Senate Bill 7, which took effect in 2011. The measure gives recall rights to teachers who have been dismissed or removed due to a “needs improvement” rating on either of the last two performance evaluations, provided that the other performance evaluation is “satisfactory, proficient or excellent.”
Sen. Rezin spoke on the Senate floor in support of this legislation and voted for the measure.
“Due to concerns that were heard from the teachers regarding the reforms of Senate Bill 7, this legislation was introduced to address those concerns and make changes that would help the teacher review process,” Sen. Rezin said. “I supported the measure because after Senate Bill 7 was enacted, it was revealed that changes were needed.”
Having passed the Senate amended, the legislation will go back to the House for concurrence on the amendment before going to the governor to be signed into law.
Sen. Rezin is pictured above on the Senate floor on May 27 speaking during the debate of Senate Bill 16.