Springfield, IL – A simulation of education funding reform legislation run by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) during the week shows good results for school districts across the state. The evidence-based funding approach, filed by State Senator Jason Barickman (R-Bloomington), is modeled after suggestions from the Education Funding Reform Commission, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who were tasked with offering ideas on how to better Illinois’ current education funding formula.
Also during the week at the Statehouse, the Senate passed measures that would allow nurses to work across state lines, disabled veterans to still receive property tax relief if they move in the middle of a year, and coyote hunters to use crossbows.
School funding reform proposal shows good results
An Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) funding simulation shows State Senator Jason Barickman’s (R-Bloomington) school funding reform plan would provide a major boost to struggling schools across the state, sending more than a half a billion dollars in funding through an evidence based model without increasing costs from the previous year.
"Changing the formula is an incredibly complicated task, with small details having major implications in terms of results and costs,” said Senator Barickman. “But I think these results show that if legislation is focused on the realities of our state and the needs of our schools, we can make major strides toward reducing the inequities of our current system.”
Barickman’s legislation, Senate Bill 1124, is based on the framework developed by the Governor’s bipartisan school funding reform commission. The legislation would create an Evidence Based School Funding System that uses 27 different variables to set individual adequacy targets for each school district, based on the real costs of the districts, accepted best practices, and student demographics. Districts would be grouped into four tiers based on how far they are from their adequacy target, with Tier 1 including the schools needing the most help, up to Tier 4, which contains the schools that already meet or exceed their adequacy targets.
The ISBE simulation is based on the details of Senator Barickman’s legislation.
Barickman’s funding formula contains a base funding minimum or hold harmless that is based on the district’s FY17 General State Aid claims. According to the ISBE simulation, every school district but one would receive funding that matches or exceeds their FY17 funding for General State Aid claims and programs that would be integrated into the formula.
The base funding minimum would total $5.432 billion, allowing Barickman’s legislation to distribute an additional $531 million to schools through the Evidence Based Model without increasing the total spending level from the current fiscal year.
“The Legislature will continue to make decisions about funding levels for education through its budgeting process. However, this funding model ensures that every dollar above the hold harmless is distributed through the evidence based model,” said Senator Barickman. “And we start with half a billion dollars through the model without relying on increased state spending, which is a great start to creating a more equitable system.”
Illinois’ neediest schools – as measured by data and evidence – will receive the bulk of the $531 million flowing through the Evidence Based Model. For example, the 450 districts contained in Tier 1 would gain $445 million of the $531 million, and the 226 Tier 2 school districts would gain $50.7 million.
Another component of Barickman’s plan involves means testing, which was designed to provide extra help to struggling school districts that are unable to generate much revenue despite high tax rates. The ISBE simulation confirms that the means testing component succeeds at driving funding to schools that have excessively high tax rates and little, local property wealth (EAV).
“Families in East St Louis have seen their property taxes rise to the highest in the state. Streator, where I grew up, has extremely high tax rates and has maxed out what they can generate locally. But both districts still don’t have the money they need to properly educate their children,” said Senator Barickman. “Means testing helps prioritize funding to districts like these, and I think the results show that our model works.”
Barickman’s legislation removes the often criticized and controversial Chicago Block Grant, but is tied to additional legislation (SB2172) that would pay the normal cost of CPS’s pensions. By doing so, all school districts will be treated alike, providing true parity for CPS as well as for all 851 other Illinois school districts.
A second bill filed by Senator Barickman, Senate Bill 1125, would add mandate relief and real parity between all school districts by offering additional management flexibility. These changes include flexibility in Physical Education requirements, including allowing student athletes to opt out of PE to take additional classes and provisions to help districts save money via third-party contracting for certain services. Districts would also be able to hold referendums to discharge certain mandates, not including health, life safety rules, federal mandates, or civil rights protections. The legislation also empowers voters to lower their property taxes through a referendum if their district exceeds 110% of their adequacy target.
“This legislation embraces my long-held views that we should have one funding system for all of our Illinois schoolchildren, that we shouldn’t pit one school district or geographic region of the state against the other, and that we should drive resources to districts most in need as demonstrated by facts and data, and not by political rhetoric and emotion,” said Senator Barickman. “I look forward to presenting this legislation to the Senate Education Committee as soon as possible.”
The results of the simulation are available at Senator Barickman’s website, www.JasonBarickman.org.
Nurses in Illinois, other states could work across state lines
Nurses in Illinois would have more flexibility to work in other states, under legislation passed by the Senate April 25. Senate Bill 677 allows Illinois to join 25 other states that are part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC), which allows for Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses in Illinois to be recognized in other compact member states. The legislation would also allow nurses in NLC states, such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Kentucky, to work in Illinois.
The legislation would mean nurses would not have to run the risk of disciplinary action if they call a patient in another state but the nurse is not licensed in that state. It would also help nurses avoid obtaining costly licenses from several states or go through each state’s continuing education hours. Proponents say with more patients choosing to obtain their healthcare in neighboring states, or if there is a natural disaster requiring immediate medical workers, this would allow nurses to practice across state lines without having to jump through all the hoops.
The NCL requires background checks that mirror current practices already in place in Illinois. The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.
Allowing accessibility symbol for regular/specialty license plates passes Senate
Those with disabilities would be able to have the accessibility symbol on a regular or specialty license plate, under legislation passed by the Senate April 25. Right now, people with disabilities can only get the accessibility symbol on the Person with Disabilities Plate or the Disabled Veteran Plate.
For example, individuals who wish to have a specialty plate for a university, sports team, or other organization could then also obtain the accessibility symbol on that plate.
Disability plates allow the authorized holder to park in spaces reserved for persons with disabilities at places such as a mall, grocery stores, or retail stores.
Senate Bill 616 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.
Ensuring property tax relief for disabled veterans during a move
Disabled veterans who qualified for the Disabled Veterans Standard Homestead Exemption for their previous home would qualify for a pro-rated exemption for their new home when they move, under legislation passed by the Senate April 26.
Right now, when disabled veterans move into a new residence in the middle of a year, they have to pay the outstanding property taxes until they can reapply for the Disabled Veterans' Standard Homestead Exemption the next year. Senate Bill 872 allows that exemption to follow the veterans if they move in the middle of the year. It’s modeled after the current property tax exemption process for senior citizens.
To see a breakdown of the benefits of the Disabled Veterans' Standard Homestead Exemption, go here.
Senate Bill 872 now moves to the House for consideration.
Helping DCFS investigate child abuse
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) would be allowed to access certain prescription drug records of families with children in custody, under legislation passed by the Senate April 26. The goal is a more thorough investigation into cases of child abuse and neglect especially when opioid use and abuse could be a factor.
With the rise of opioid use in the state, Senate Bill 892 would help DCFS when investigating cases by allowing select DCFS employees to access the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) database. The PMP collects information on controlled substance prescriptions dispensed in Illinois and would be used as another tool when child abuse and child neglect investigations are performed.
The legislation now moves to the House for consideration.
Senator Barickman welcomed students from Cornell to the Capitol on April 26th.
Residents and staff from Evergreen Senior Living also visited Senator Barickman at the Capitol on April 26th.
Senator Barickman met with 4-H students who were advocating for support for their program at the Capitol on April 25th.