Northwest suburban educators 'will not stand' for state funding cuts
Three Northwest suburban school districts held a joint forum Thursday night to rally parents and taxpayers against Senate Bill 16, a controversial proposal that would redistribute state funding among the 860 school districts in Illinois.
Instead of expanding the pool of money, the current measure would shift state dollars to poorer school districts and take away from wealthier ones, forcing the biggest losers to cut their staffs, opponents say.
"This would be a major disruption to the services that this community offers and to the services that your students receive, and we will not stand for that," Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 Superintendent Dan Cates told dozens of people at the forum in a Schaumburg High School theater.
While they concede changes to the complicated funding formula are long overdue, Cates and the leaders of Palatine Township Elementary District 15 and Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54 say state lawmakers need to find additional revenue to address disparities.
"We don't want the state to take away the small dollars they're already providing us and give them to other places," District 15 Superintendent Scott Thompson said. "They need to find a different revenue source, and they need to leave us alone."
Administrators of the three districts broke down the estimated losses, phased in over four years:
• $8 million in District 211.
• $11.1 million in District 15.
• $12.4 million in District 54.
Across the suburbs, 27 school districts could stand to lose more than half their state funding, according to Illinois State Board of Education forecasts. But others would gain, most notably Elgin Area School District U-46 with nearly $24.5 million.
Amid mounting criticism from educators, state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, a sponsor of the bill, wrote in a letter this month pledging that the proposal in its current form would not become law and that "there is still much more work to be done." The Aurora Democrat also said she wants to continue talks after the November election.
Officials at the forum said they have begun planning for the worst but don't yet have the specifics on how the losses would be felt. But in District 15, Thompson said the $11 million amounts to 7 percent of the overall budget, or the salaries and benefits of almost 200 first-year teachers.
Administrators say the potential cuts would "inevitably" reach into student programming, but they would first try to offset the losses outside the classroom.
"That's only putting a Band-Aid on the problem," said Susan Goldwater, a mom of a third-grader in District 54 who called the forum "eye-opening."
Officials also urged parents to air their concerns with lawmakers.
"We need to have our voices heard because we need a solution that provides all of our children with the same educational opportunities regardless of what town they live in, what school they go to," District 211 Chief Operating Officer Lauren Hummel said.
"We need to find a system that keeps our local resources and our dollars here in our communities for our students.