Trotter: 'Misinformation' surrounding school funding formula prevents forward motion on budget deal
Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) said trust has become a rare commodity among state lawmakers as he joined a Democratic legislators decrying a news report that Senate Bill 1, which includes a $385 million bailout for the long-troubled Chicago Public Schools, would drastically cuts funding to other districts across the state.
“We’ve been working on this budget for the past two-and-a-half years, and one of the main things that has kept us apart was this humongous distrust for each other,” he said. “The truth is we have done nothing, and we see all of our schools throughout the state feeling the brunt of it.”
Approved by the Senate earlier this month and touted as an improved formula for allocating public school funding, the bill sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) could cost at least seven Kankakee County districts millions in state funding, the Kankakee Times reported, using data from an Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) analysis of formula changes previously proposed by Manar.
Trotter's Senate district covers parts of Kankakee County.
In a press conference called in response to the Kankakee Times report, Democratic lawmakers led by Manar blasted the numbers in the report as “false and erroneous,” claiming they were leaked by the Rauner administration and demanding a public apology.
However, the information has been available on ISBE's website since last summer.
The Rauner administration responded by questioning how readily available information could be considered "leaked."
“The Senate Democrats today jumped the shark,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Rauner, said in a statement. “One cannot leak something that is on a public website. Their false and outrageous accusations have been disproven, and they should apologize for manufacturing blatantly false accusations.”
Manar insisted the funding numbers released by the Kankakee Times do not reflect changes in the final bill. However, he admitted a new ISBE analysis was not completed before the Senate passed the bill, so he couldn't refute the previous analysis with new data. Without a new analysis, senators approved SB1 despite never reviewing how it would affect funding for school districts. Manar said that's not unusual.
"We’ve requested them," Manar said. "It takes time. I don’t think there is anything going on here other than what the normal process is."
Trotter said the report put another roadblock ahead of the state's budget progress.
“I thought things were coming together,” he said. “We are now less than 12 days before the end of our session, and this is not how we move our state forward. We don’t do that by spreading misinformation and half-truths.”
At more than $1 billion, Illinois’ 850 school districts already pay out more administrative costs than any other districts in the country. A Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) analysis also found the state spends nearly three times the national average for administrative costs per student.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has vowed to veto SB1.
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