Michelle Smith urges politicians to set aside their difference for Illinois' students
District 49 Senate candidate Michelle Smith said she doesn’t believe that the recent education refunding formula that was supported by State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Dist. 48) would have helped Illinois, especially given that an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education showed that her school district alone would have lost more than $1 million in funding under the proposal that ultimately was killed by the governor.
“Analysis shows the (Plainfield School District 202) received $74,008,171.98 for funding FY15 and under the new proposed formula would have received $72,620,873.93," Smith told the DuPage Policy Journal. "This is a $1,387,298.05 or 1.9 percent loss to the district,”
The missing 1.9 percent would have been covered by an adequacy grant, but Manar’s formula could have meant trouble for other districts unable to have their fund covered by grants or private funding. This, according to Smith, should not be how education is funded.
“Regardless if we were to lose or gain funds, I would oppose Senate Bill 231,” she said. “Taking funds from school districts to pay for others is not how we should be funding education. We must find other resources to fund education, and we need to find ways to fully fund it.”
Keeping the schools open is vital for Smith, who serves on her district’s school board. The funding not only goes to educate the students, but to pay for staff and teachers, who are there to ensure that students are provided with the best possible education.
“What many people do not understand about school funding is that about 90 percent of the budget goes toward salaries and benefits for administrators, teachers and all other staff,” she said. “We count on every dollar we are supposed to receive from the state to keep our schools open. With over 30 schools, 28,000 students and 3,000 staff it takes every dollar to keep our kids educated, staff paid and purchase resources needed for our students.”
They have to make every dollar count and so, when the state reduces their funding, it becomes a struggle. From that struggle, people are left to take on the burden.
“When the state chooses not to fulfill their obligation to pay us the general state aid that we rely on, we have to make sacrifices and find ways to cut the budget,” Smith said. “But with 90 percent of the budget being about people, that means that 'people' become the sacrifices.”
Smith said a big culprit to the problem of funding are pensions, which she believes is too high and also in need of reform.
“Pension costs continue to rise, which is the largest issue we have here in Illinois,” she said. “Until we can come up with and agree with some sort of pension reform, education funding in Illinois will never improve. If the state continues to rob schools of the funds owed to them then several Illinois schools will have no choice but to close. If they can’t afford to pay the staff then there is no other alternative.”
Smith urged Springfield to set aside their differences and do what is right for the students. They are the ones dealing with the consequences.
“Schools districts are on pins and needles watching Springfield fight over school funding, not understanding that politics should have no part in the education of the children in Illinois,” she said. “Legislators must put their egos to the side, forget about those who have filled their pockets, and do the right thing. Education should not be a Republican or Democrat issue. They need to do what is right.”
She said she believes that implementing change in Springfield will be a step toward doing the right thing. As such, Smith fully supports term limits, which House Speaker Mike Madigan refused to take to vote in the capital.
“I am fully committed, if elected, to do all that I can to pass a bill that would put term limits in place in Springfield,” she said. "It is what is needed in Illinois to give our state back to the citizens."
Smith asserted that politicians are no longer serving the people, but their own personal interests, which she believes is the reason why Madigan and his party rejected any mention of limiting terms.
“Madgian and the Democrats are not interested in term limits because they would lose their power and money,” she said. “Both Madigan and (Senate President John) Cullerton have been in power for years and are surely not there for the good of the people. If we can't get term limits for all legislators, the leadership in Springfield would make a great start.”
Smith urged her constituents to fight for change; to believe in something better than what they have now. If they delay, then it may lead to something worse.
“It is time we take a stand and demand that those who have corrupted Illinois for their own gain step down and give others an opportunity to save our state," she said. "Without change in Springfield, our state is doomed.”
Organizations in this Story