Friday’s school funding and special education legislative update. Five days to go.


-Bev Johns

Senate Bill 231 (passed the Senate, now in the House) would change the school funding formulas, but provide NO money. It would change the law, but is NOT an appropriation bill. (But the bill may be dead for this Spring – see below.)

House Bill 3190 (passed Senate Executive Committee, needs to be voted on by both the Senate and the House) would combine SB 231 for ONLY the 2016-2017 school year with the Evidence Based plan for the 2017-2018 school year and later years.

It would change the laws (TWICE in 2 years), but provides NO money as it is NOT an appropriation bill.

Senate Bill 2048 (passed the House, now in the Senate) provides MONEY as it IS an APPROPRIATION bill. It gives $378 MILLION to Chicago Public Schools, provides more money to poorer schools through a new $700 million Equity Grant, $75 million more for Early Childhood programs, and current funding for almost all other school programs (including $9,000 for each special education teacher, each school psychologist, each school nurse, each school social worker who work with students with IEPs).

TODAY, Jim Broadway in the Illinois School News Service, states:

[Speaker] Madigan had the bill [SB 231] assigned to the Executive Committee (which he controls tightly) back on May 16, and has now decided that the committee will actually hear it – on May 31, the last day of the legislative session. By then, time will be up. The bill could not possibly come to a final action vote this spring.


SB 231 is a Formula Block Grant for special education.

It bases funding NOT on the number of special ed students which varies tremendously among school districts, but instead on the Statewide AVERAGE. A school district would receive exactly the same amount of money if it had 5 percent of its students in special education OR 12 percent. That makes it a Block Grant as it also is just a funding formula that does NOT require that the money be spent on special education. SB 231 ELIMINATES

the State law tying $9,000 in funding to the hiring of each special ed teacher and other professionals.  


The Evidence Based plan is the proposal of the Illinois School Superintendents and other Administrator groups.

The detailed EVIDENCE-BASED plan for special education, as presented to ISBE and to Rep. Currie’s education task force, is based on the VERMONT STUDY 2015.

(As for SB 231, the EVIDENCE BASED plan is just funding: it does NOT require the hiring of a special education teacher.) 

Every child in the general education classroom, taught by the general ed teacher as in Vermont?

Some want special education to largely disappear, and for general ed and the general ed teacher to do it all.

Vermont is the leading State for full inclusion of all (or almost all) students with disabilities in the general education classroom full-time.

136 schools in Vermont report having ZERO special ed teachers, while 49 of the 136 schools report having special ed aides (and this is based on actual services in a school: several other schools reported having 1/2 of a special ed teacher). 

For special education, the EVIDENCE BASED plan to change school  funding in Illinois is based on the same VERMONT STUDY 2015.

As stated on Page 405 of House Bill 3190 under “Special education investments”:

1.0 position per 141 students for services for students with mild and moderate disabilities.

0.5 teacher aides per 141 students.

1.0 psychologist per 1,000 students.

And the RESEARCH BASED source for this?  VERMONT.

It would be hard to find a State more different from Illinois than Vermont.


doing it again if you have already done it, saying:


Say that both Senate Bill 231 and the EVIDENCE BASED plan in House Bill 3190 eliminate direct funding of special ed teachers and replace it with Block Grants that can be spent for ANY purpose.

Find out who your State Senator and State Representative are:

“As educators, rather than raising your voices Over the rustling of our chains, Take them off. Un-cuff us. Unencumbered by the lumbering weight Of poverty and privilege, Policy and ignorance.”

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,
Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.

At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering
In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —
Like tokens in coined phrases? —
“Diversity. Inclusion”
There are days I feel like one, like only —
A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.
But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.
With a passion that transcends the confines of my consciousness —
Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.
I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,
With veins pumping revolution.
I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.
I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.
I am a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like the mind
Cannot be contained.

As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
Unencumbered by the lumbering weight
Of poverty and privilege,
Policy and ignorance.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

I look each of my students in the eyes,
And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt
And the pyramids of Giza.
I see the same twinkle
That guided Harriet to freedom.
I see them. Beneath their masks and mischief,
Exists an authentic frustration;
An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.
An injustice is telling them they are stars
Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.

Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.

We Are One Illinois’ statement on the “consideration model”.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 11.22.31 AM

The following points represent the We Are One Illinois Coalition’s position on a pension model currently receiving attention that is commonly referred to as the “consideration model.”

The hundreds of thousands of workers (teachers, firefighters, nurses, police and other public employees) represented by We Are One Illinois oppose this purported “consideration model” because it fails the test for good pension law:

• It is not constitutional;

• It is unfair in its outcome;

• It will not solve Illinois’s long-term pension funding obligations; and

• It will exacerbate the challenges those obligations pose by kicking down the road to a future day implementation of a lawful funding solution.

The following core points explain the why this plan is not constitutional. Additional legal analysis of its unconstitutionality is set forth in this memo.

 • This supposed “consideration model” violates the Illinois Constitution.

The Illinois Supreme Court has now made it clear in two cases (the state “SB1” case and theCity of Chicago case) that unilateral changes to diminish the pension benefits belonging to any member of a retirement system are unconstitutional.

The model commonly referred to as “the consideration model” also fails the constitutional test because it offers pension system members (regardless of Tier I or Tier II) a choice between two versions of diminished benefits. There in fact is NO CONSIDERATION in the legal sense. A public employee would be forced to choose between two options, each of which illegally strips away pension benefits. This is a construction that the Supreme Court has expressly ruled violates the Illinois Constitution Pension Protection clause.

Consideration requires some countervailing substantial new benefit that the pension holder must be able to accept or decline. This suggested new model offers no such thing; in fact, it offers a choice between reduction of two already protected pension benefits. Therefore, it is unlawful.

• This supposed “consideration model” will not survive a court challenge and therefore will only worsen Illinois’ fiscal position.

If passed into law, such a plan will be swiftly challenged in court. When the Illinois Supreme Court rules—yet again—that diminishment of pension benefits is illegal, the state’s pension systems will surely be further underfunded and the pension payments the state must pay will be larger. Simply put, our problems will only be harder to solve. A vote for such a plan is a vote to kick the can down the road, a vote to not solve Illinois’s fiscal challenges.

The We Are One Illinois coalition strongly urges all legislators to abandon pursuit of illegal pension benefit diminishments and work instead on lawful, rational and fair approaches to funding Illinois pension systems.


Random thoughts. Chicago leads in numbers of the disconnected.


A Brookings study of the numbers of “disconnected youth,” shows Chicago leads the nation.

The study uses an algorithm to define disconnection.

Specifically, the analysis examines the employment and unemployment rates of teens, young adults, and prime-age workers, using microdata data from the American Community Survey for the years 2008–2014. The analysis also examines a key subpopulation among teens and young adult population: “disconnected youth” who are neither working nor in school. These young people are missing key educational and employment experiences and are at increased risk for a host of negative outcomes: long spells of unemployment, poverty, criminal behavior, substance abuse, and incarceration. Data on disconnected youth also comes from American Community Survey microdata, but to compensate for small sample sizes, the analysis uses a three-year estimate encompassing the years 2012–2014.

Part of the data looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 7.29.57 AM.jpg

Chicago’s employment rate among African American 20-24 years olds is 47%, the worst of any big city in the nation.

The data is one thing. The solution is another.

The Chicago Police Department also has looked at the data and has also developed what it calls an algorithm said to predict potential, not actual, criminals.

And arrest them.

In a broad drug and gang raid carried out last week amid a disturbing uptick this year in shootings and murders, the Police Department said 117 of the 140 people arrested were on the list.

And in one recent report on homicides and shootings over a two-day stretch, nearly everyone involved was on the list.

“We are targeting the correct individuals,” Mr. Johnson said. “We just need our judicial partners and our state legislators to hold these people accountable.”

Many government agencies and private entities are using data to try to predict outcomes, and local law enforcement organizations are increasingly testing such algorithms to fight crime. The computer model in Chicago, though, is uniquely framed around this city’s particular problems: a large number of splintered gangs; an ever younger set of gang members, according to the police; and a rash of gun violence that is connected to acts of retaliation between gangs.

Supporters of Chicago’s list say that it allows the police to focus on a small fraction of people creating chaos in the city rather than unfairly and ineffectively blanketing whole neighborhoods. But critics wonder whether there is value in predicting who is likely to shoot or be shot with seemingly little ability to prevent it, and they question the fairness and legality of creating a list of people deemed likely to commit crimes at some future time.

Okay. Out of the car! You’re under arrest.

What did I do?

You’re in violation of an algorithm. You’re disconnected.

The symbiotic relationship between the Trib and the Illinois Policy Institute.


-By John Dillon who blogs at Pension Vocabulary.

Usually it takes at least a couple of days before the Chicago Tribune’s Editorial Board follows an emotional diatribe by Illinois Policy Institute’s opinion writer Diana Sroka Rickert with an echoing piece re-mastered to smooth some of the hysteria and to borrow some of the arguments.

Perhaps with Bruce Dold now charge of the daily, McCormick (the novice Editor) couldn’t wait to follow up.  It was quick, but in keeping with Dold’s models, he and his team elevated Rickert’s rants, cleaned up the innuendos, and thieved her arguments in a more, well, tastefully manner.

But, it’s always wise to remember that the Illinois Policy Institute enjoys a special relationship with the Chicago Tribune, one in which the far-right leaning group gets expansive opportunity to promote their tea-party, state’s rights, free markets, and no taxation policies.  And that relationship is symbiotic, as the Trib can later (usually more than one day) edit and refine the I.P.I.’s latest tirade into something more palatable for their avid readers and corporate elite.

According to Rickert’s argument, General Assembly legislators – Democrats – are playing at computer games like Candy Crush, while the state budget goes undone.  While this is not a new phenomena – legislators of both parties have been caught before doing emails, seeking purchases on E-Bay, even playing Battleship with each other – but this affront by Rep. Cloonen and Rep. Smiddy took place while the debate over the budget took place and was caught on WCIA television.  Heavens!

WCIA has always been receptive to the I.P.I.’s offers to put their own spin on what is happening in Springfield, and as a centrally located television studio in Champaign area, they both have continued to curry this relationship. You’ll find the I.P.I. is often part of their coverage.

The WCIA helps I.P.I.; and the I.P.I. helps the Chicago Tribune.  Symbiotic.

Read the entire post here.

Illinois House passes budget bill, including school funding with no special education funding cuts. Rauner says he will veto it.

Bruce Rauner

Democrats pass budget bill challenging Rauner to veto K-12 funding for every Illinois public school district.

-By Bev Johns

By a vote of 63 Yes, 53 No, and 1 present, the Illinois House of Representatives  voted last night to provide $9,000 for each special ed teacher next school year (Disabled Student Personnel Reimbursement) as part of a huge budget bill for Fiscal Year 2017.

In addition, the 500 page Amendment 2 to Senate Bill 2048 rejected the recommendation of the Illinois State Board of Education to move $303 million from another special education line item to General State Aid, and keeps that $303 million for special education.

SB 2048 is real money, including $387 million for Chicago schools, as opposed to Senate Bill 231 which would change school funding formulas BUT PROVIDE NO REAL MONEY.

SB 2048 includes $700 million for a new Equity Grant for poorer schools and no school district would receive less money next school year than it received this school year.

SB 2048 now goes to the Illinois State Senate for consideration and votes. Governor Rauner has already threatened to veto SB 2048 as it contains spending but no increase in taxes to pay for the spending.



Illinois legislative clock ticks down. The incredibly silent IEA. UPDATED.


The regular session of the Illinois General Assembly ends May 31st.  Nobody I know expects a budget deal with the crazy governor by then.

I was talking with Springfield lobbyist the other day and the conversation about the governor seemed to be more about his psychological state than his political strategy.

“He doesn’t care if he wins or loses,” said the lobbyist.

I’m not a shrink. So I’ll stay focused on the politics of it all.

Conventional wisdom seems to be that some agreement on K-12 funding will get done.

Yesterday I wrote again about SB 231, Senator Manar’s bill to change the funding formula and take money from special education categorical funding and move it to school districts’ general fund. It effectively reduces money for special education.

When Bob Kaplan, IEA retired activist and member of the IEA’s legislative committee asked on Facebook why the IEA was neutral on the Manar bill when the IEA’s Legislative Program opposes both the spending shift and cuts to mandated direct categorical special education  grants, he received a response from IEA President Cinda Klickna.

Cinda Klickna: “You might ask for details.”

Bob: “I have and have gotten no explanation.  I’m asking for details.”

 Cinda Klickna: “Last year the board discussed supporting giving to poorer districts from more affluent. Remember?”

What is odd is that the Manar bill has been around in one form or another for three years. It has been in one legislative committee or another this session. The IEA Representative Assembly met and approved the Legislative Program just about a month ago. They may have “discussed it on the board” last year, but no changes to the Program were presented or voted on.

Characterizing the Manar bill as “giving to poorer districts from more affluent” doesn’t do justice to what they want to do.

The negative impact on special needs students may be devastating.

Here is the language from the IEA Legislative Progam approved a little over a month ago:

“All of Illinois’ students deserve the same access to learning opportunities, level of commitment, and economic support. School funding should be based on a per-pupil amount equal to that of the wealthiest districts in the state (my emphasis).”

That is what an education funding bill should say. I don’t know what was discussed a year ago at a board meeting, but that language is what the members through their delegates at the state IEA Representative Assembly voted for.

The Legislative Program is intended to guide lobbyists and leadership as to what legislation IEA opposes or supports. It is the membership’s voice on these issues.

Some have suggested that the “neutral” position is just a place holder until the language of a bill is finally ready for a vote. Although Klickna’s “we discussed it on the board” comment would suggest otherwise. But even if neutral is a place holder, that wouldn’t prevent the IEA from speaking publicly on what they want. I thought that was what all this “sitting at the table” stuff was about.

There is a new state education spending bill, HB828. It is viewed as an alternative to SB231 which remains in Executive Committee.

According to Bev Johns:

State spending for next school year may be frozen at this years level EXCEPT for $500 to $700 million added to the low income part of General State Aid (perhaps plus pension money for Chicago OR allowing Chicago to raise taxes to pay for pension costs).

The Evidence Based plan (which moves direct aid to special education) is now in legislation as Amendment 1 to House Bill 828 

Adding $500 to $700 million would greatly help schools with concentrated low income students.

According to the current formulas, if a school district has 15 percent or less low income (as determined by the DHS formula) they receive $355 for each low income student. For more than 15 percent, there is a formula. For example, if 30 percent, it is $537 for each low income student; if 50 percent, $969 per student, and if 80 percent low income students, it is $2,022 per student.

ANY combination of money, SB 231 and HB 828 is possible, or NOTHING may be done before May 31. (After that date it takes a 3/5 vote of the Illinois House and Illinois Senate for a bill to be immediately effective.)


Fred – This is a little confusing.

There are 3 entirely separate and independent proposals.

(1) $500 to $700 million in more money for next school year. This is just appropriations with NO change in the school funding formulas.

(2) Senate Bill 231, the Manar bill, which has a Block Grant for special education (changes school funding formulas, but appropriates NO money).

(3) House Bill 828, with Amendment 1, which has an entirely different Block Grant for special education (changes school funding formulas, but appropriates NO money).

Thanks, Bev