Breen, Ives at polar opposites on school funding bill
Two representatives from the same party recently saw the same bill in strikingly different ways.
While Rep. Peter Breen (R-Lombard) acknowledged complications with Senate Bill 1947, the state's K-12 funding bill that became law Aug. 31, he also saw it as the best thing for Illinois schools.
Fellow Republican Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton described it as a huge mistake.
“We’ve got to remember what we are doing here,” Breen said at the time. “ ... With this compromise bill, we have the chance to finally end this long war. We finally end this impasse. We take the schoolchildren out of the line of fire. We end the uncertainty. And finally, we’ve come to compromise. This will be the first major education funding compromise in decades. The people of the state of Illinois will thank us for doing it. I think our successors in this body will thank us for doing it. And the schoolchildren will be better off overall.”
SB1947, a 500-page product of bipartisan compromises, supposedly provides money to schools across the state fairly and equitably via an evidence-based funding model. A hold-harmless clause means schools will receive at least the same amount of money as they did the year prior. State aid will be prioritized to schools that are most in need.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will also receive roughly $450 million more than expected from previous education proposals, and the bill contains a provision to give $75 million in tax credits to donors to scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools.
Many Democrats argued against the tax credit, but Breen contended that the amount was a drop in the bucket in the overall education funding bucket and "doesn’t impact neighborhood schools at all.”
Ives, however, argued that SB1947 does little to actually reform education funding because it lacks positive reinforcement.
“None of the process to date has been focused on outcomes: performance, students and outcome,” Ives said. “There is nothing in this bill that talks about measuring student growth in order to receive more money, nor does it talk about funding the right items and showing that the outcomes actually came out of funding the right items. This is all an input-based model.”
Ives contended that schools would receive money regardless of progress on test scores, student performance and administrative excellence. The bill is nothing more than a Chicago bailout, Ives asserted.
“For my taxpayers, this is one huge massive and sustaining bailout for the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund,” she said. “A massive and sustaining bailout for them. Their statistics are shameful. Over the last 17 years, they have gone from nearly 100 percent funding down to about 50 percent funding. Why is that? Because for 13 of the 17 years, they failed to put in money for the pensions. Negligible amounts. Even last year, they short the system $250 million. As you can see, this is a cycle that is never going to get fixed. Instead, what this bill does, it demands that taxpayers around the state bailout the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund.”
Despite Ives' objections, SB1947 passed on a second vote, 73-34, after initialing failing. The Senate passed the bill the next day, 38 to 13, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law on Aug. 31, giving Illinois its first education funding reform in two decades.