Reick defends new school funding model, flaws and all, for now
Illinois’ historic new education funding measure has problems, but it is a first step toward real change, Rep. Steven Reick (R-Woodstock) contended during House floor debate on Aug. 28.
“Overall, this is not a good bill," Reick said. "This was not a good bill when it came back here as Senate Bill 1. I didn’t like the funding model. I think we can do this better, but this is the bill we are going to have. If we blow this up and SB1 goes down and everything else goes to hell in a hand basket, we’re going to have to go and renegotiate this, and I do not have any confidence that we are going to get better bill than we have right now.”
SB1947, a 500-page product of bipartisan negotiations that replaced SB1, will supposedly provide money to schools across the state fairly and equitably via an evidence-based funding model. A hold-harmless clause means schools will receive at least the same amount of money as they did the year prior. State aid will be prioritized to schools that are most in need.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will also receive roughly $450 million more than expected from previous education proposals, and the bill contains a provision to give $75 million in tax credits to donors to scholarships that help low-income students attend private schools.
The Chicago provisions and tax credits were points of contention for Reick.
“I do not like the idea of legacy costs being used to reduce local capacity, which will give the CPS an additional $40 million a year," he said. "I don’t like that. Honestly, I don’t like the tax credit program because I believe that if we are going to provide for school choice in the state – and there is no bigger advocate for school choice in the state than I am – I believe that we ought to stand up and give school choice out of money that we have appropriated here. To blow a $75 million hole in the budget immediately upon passage of a budget that has cost many people their careers, I cannot support that.”
However, Reick conceded that the bill moves Illinois forward in terms of providing property tax relief and reform, albeit in a minuscule way. He called it a beginning step that gives districts – most notably south suburbs of Chicago – a taste of a property tax cut.
“I think that what we’re doing now is we’ve stuck the camel’s nose onto the tent flap with regards to how property taxes should be assessed in the state and what limitations should or should not be placed upon them,” Reick said.
After initially failing, SB1947 passed the House on a second vote, 73-34. The Senate passed the bill the next day, 38-, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it Aug. 31, giving Illinois its first education funding reform in two decades.