Bev Johns and me at a 2014 Special Education meeting.
– By Beverley Holden Johns. Bev is a special education advocate and activist and her analysis frequently appears on this site.
Overall, SB 1 proposes NO new money, just a shifting of current money. SB 1 would change all of school funding in Illinois by taking away dedicated funding for special education teachers and other professional personnel.
SB 1 does NOT change the maximum amount of General State Aid (GSA) money that has been in Illinois law since the 2009-2012 school year: $6,119 per pupil. SB 1 would take away special education money and use PART of that money for a block grant and PART of special education money to shift funding from one school district to another.
The one change for special education in SB 1 from SB 16 is that the assumed number of special education students, 13.8 percent, can be increased if a district has up to 18.8 percent of students with disabilities. The weighting factor for the special education block grant remains at a much too low 1.0, and the future base percentage for the block grant remains a guess provided by ISBE as to the number of students with disabilities in public schools (rather than the number of students with IEPs).
Senate Bill 1 is largely an attempt to cover over a failure to fund Illinois schools by taking away direct funding of special education teachers and re-distributing that money in a block grant. The GSA formulas worked very well when Illinois was properly funding schools and still partly work today.
Special education Personnel Reimbursement, which is separate from GSA, now provides $9,000 for each special education teacher, each school social worker, each school psychologist, each school nurse and other professionals that work full-time with special education students.
SB 1 would completely abolish this dedicated funding for special education Personnel Reimbursement, which now provides up to 1/3 of a special education teacher’s salary in a poor district, but less than 1/10 of that salary for some teachers in a wealthy district.
This school year under GSA, the 64 highest wealth school districts are entitled to receive only $218 per student, while the 86 poorest school districts are entitled to receive over $4,000 per student. This school year, Illinois is funding only 89 percent of those GSA amounts (proration). In other words, the poorest school districts are losing over 6 percent of their total budgets, while the wealthy school districts are losing about 1 percent of their total budgets.
More importantly, Illinois has failed for years to provide the needed funding increases for K to 12 education. In 2002, by State law, Illinois was to provide $4,560 per student through a combination of State and local funds (which was determined based on low-spending but high achieving school districts). Now, by State law, Illinois is to provide only $6,119, although the amount determined based on low-spending but high achieving school districts is $8,672.
As Jim Broadway, Illinois School News Service, stated on January 6, ‘The formula no longer works’ because ‘the original formula was crafted to work satisfactorily as long as the state’s share of total PK-12 public school funding would be 50% or so, with the local share maybe 40% to 42% and the feds paying the rest. As the state’s share has fallen from a peak of about 48.5% in the mid-1970s to less than 30% of the total today, the portion paid by local property owners has ballooned to 60% or more.’
You cannot cover over the failure of Illinois to fund schools by blaming formulas that work as intended when schools get the funds they need.