Good and right to take $303 million from special ed?

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State Senator Andy Manar.

-By Bev Johns

Illinois State Senator Andy Manar in a hearing today asked the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for the Background and Thought Process on recommending that $303 million be taken away from Special Education and put into General State Aid.

The State Superintendent of Education, Tony Smith, replied that ISBE asked, “What would be good and right?”

ISBE wanted to “change the game” and “bring a tool to the table.”

Manar asked if “we can guarantee that the $303 million had been spent on special education?”

ISBE replied, YES, it was spent on special education, except for the part (29 percent of the $303 million) that came “off the top” for the Chicago Block Grant.

That Chicago money then “had NO ties to special education” and could be spent in any way Chicago wanted to spend it.

Manar stated the 85/15 formula for the $303 million meant that this Special Education line item was NOT related to Special Education.

ISBE did NOT mention Maintenance of Effort (MOE), did NOT say that local school districts would still have to spend the $303 million on special education.

ISBE presented it as a simple take away from Special Education to increase General State Aid.

Last week the Governor’s Office OPPOSED the taking away of the $303 million.

Manar asked Supt. Smith – “Which achieves your goals? Your budget or the Governor’s budget?”

Of course Supt. Smith did NOT answer that question.

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