Testimony of Bev Johns
June 22, 2017
House Appropriations – Elementary and Secondary Education
Chairman Davis, Spokesman Pritchard, Members of the Committee:
Special education in Illinois faces a crisis that will be made worse if you appropriate money according to the line items in Senate Bill 1.
Supporters of Senate Bill 1 say it will cost $3.5 billion or $350 million in new money each year for 10 years.
Now one of its main supporters (Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability: CTBA) states in a June 20 fact sheet that the Downstate [quote] “adequacy funding gap is $2.617 billion…40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is downstate…” [end quote]
If 40 percent of the state’s adequacy funding gap is $2.617 Billion, the total for the State is over $6.5 Billion. (And $6.5 Billion TODAY is about $8 Billion in new money spread out over 10 years, and even more spread out over 20 years.)
The question is not where $350 million in NEW money EACH year will come from, but where $800 million in NEW money EACH year will come from.
SENATE BILL 1 IS THE GREATEST UNFUNDED FUNDING MANDATE EVER TO PASS THE ILLINOIS LEGISLATURE – a funding mandate that may NEVER be funded.
SB 1 would eliminate direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers and for Summer School for students needing special education.
Meg Carroll, the president of the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of Illinois, just stated:
“Illinois has the proud history of requiring special education, even before there was a federal law, and of tying state money directly to both special education teachers and special education summer school. Senate Bill 1 ends that tradition.”
She continues, “The most critical school factor for the success of students with learning disabilities is the specially trained special education teacher. Senate Bill 1 allows previously dedicated special education funds to be spent on anything that a school district chooses to call special education.”
“The definition of special education in SB 1 refers to an old vague part of Illinois law [Section 14-1.08 of the Illinois school code] that does NOT even mention the federal special education law, IDEA, or spending money as required by the individualized educational plan, the IEP, for each student.”
Therefore, the Learning Disabilities Association of Illinois has recommended a VETO OF SENATE BILL 1.
Please appropriate money for next school year, Fiscal Year 2018, according to current law. Please fund direct and dedicated funding for special education teachers (Special Education Personnel Reimbursement), and please fund Special Education Summer School.
The ISBE recommendation for Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is $444,200,000, and for Special Education Summer School is $13,400,000.
Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is now directly tied to teachers – if a school district employs a special ed teacher, it receives $9,000 in State funds each year (in every school district except Chicago).
If it does NOT employ that special ed teacher, it receives nothing.
Money is now directly tied to specialized teaching.
Giving $9,000 to a local school district is NOT going to cause local schools to go out and hire too many special ed teachers as it is from less than 10 percent to at most 30 percent of a teacher’s salary and benefits.
Special Education Personnel Reimbursement is an efficient, clear, and accountable way to spend State money, and has some equity. $9,000 is a greater percentage of a salary in a poor school district than it is in a rich district.