If successfully signed into law state Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) said a new bill he introduced Wednesday to lawmakers would properly fund all public school districts namely Chicago Public Schools.
According to Mitchell, the Fund Education First Act of 2015 or HB 4272 would provide a continuing appropriation for state aid funding and would prevent any future cuts to public schools.
“Our schools need more money. Every campaign season, politicians talk about education being their first priority. This legislation puts our money where our mouths are, and will be the bedrock of the kind of education system that ensures that every child – regardless of where they live – can receive a world class public education. The children of Illinois can’t wait any longer,” said Mitchell.
He added that the bill would automatically send 55 percent of all new state revenues toward education until the state lives up to its constitutional mandate to provide over half of all funding for public education. And the bill would also require all school public districts to report individual school level spending for the first time.
However, the proposed bill may have come too late for CPS. In May, Moody’s Investors Services Inc. downgraded CPS’ bond status to “junk” thus making it more expensive for the district to borrow money from banks and other lenders.
Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, said had this bill been in existence already the nation’s third largest school district with nearly 400,000 students would not be facing a $1.1 billion deficit.
“Chicago Public Schools wants to see our children treated equally, and this bill takes important action to end the pension inequity that penalizes our children and forces Chicago taxpayers to pay twice for teacher pensions,” said Claypool. We appreciate that Rep. Mitchell and House Democrats are offering a serious solution to make sure that every child in Illinois is treated equally, no matter where they live.”
And state Rep. Arthur Turner (D-Chicago) agreed with Claypool adding that the bill is long overdue.
“This is landmark transparency. Right now, the state provides funding to school districts and only tracks expenditures at the district level. A cornerstone of this funding reform plan includes school-level budget transparency so that communities can see that equity is carried out in all of schools for all of our children,” Turner said.
Restructured school pensions would also result from the bill, according to Mitchell.
With respect to how teacher pensions are funded Mitchell said the bill would implement a pension cost shift while also sending $200 million to CPS and providing pension parity between Chicago and the rest of the state.
Current law requires CPS to pay for the employer contribution for Chicago teachers’ pensions, while outside of Chicago, other school districts benefit from the state paying employer cost to the Teachers Retirement System.
“This system not only unfair to Chicago students and taxpayers, but it also creates a highly regressive method of delivering state funds to local school districts, where wealthier districts receive a disproportionate share of the benefit,” Mitchell said.