By: Ted Dabrowski

Illinois’ new education funding formula bailed out the Chicago Public Schools in several ways, but one of those ways got little attention: the law ensures school districts in Illinois won’t see cuts in their base state funding even if their student enrollment shrinks.

You can bet the authors of the funding formula had CPS in mind. The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that CPS enrollment dropped by 10,000 students in 2018, after previously dropping by 11,000 in 2017. Without that protection in the new law, CPS would have seen big state funding cuts going forward.

In other words, Illinois politicians are rewarding CPS for losing customers and perpetuating the district’s failed brand of education. The funding formula guarantees money for CPS even as its students flee.

I warned about the provision at the time the education funding bill was being proposed.

Yes, there are many school districts that will benefit from this [hold harmless] rule, but CPS is one of the major beneficiaries simply because of its massive size. That means millions of dollars that could have been distributed to needy, growing school districts, will stay in CPS.

As a result, CPS gets propped up, allowing the district to avoid the reforms it should be making.

CPS has long been given special advantages by the state funding formulas, despite their claims of being shorted by the state.

In all, CPS’ per student spending has doubled since 2000 even as its enrollment has fallen by nearly 75,000 students, or 17 percent.

CPS’ hemorrhaging of students shows no sign of slowing down. But the new “hold harmless” provision ensures that the base state funds to CPS are protected regardless of how much further enrollment falls.

The provision matters a lot if you’re in the camp that thinks CPS needs dramatic reforms. The formula lets CPS continue its corrupt and inefficient practices in perpetuity, rather than demand innovation in delivering education and improved outcomes.

By passing the hold harmless, Illinois politicians basically endorsed CPS’ way of doing things.

Remember, this is the district that protects dozens of nearly-empty, failing schools from closing, which we covered in depth when the Chicago Tribune exposed the issue earlier this year.

It’s the district that folds to union demands at every turn and engages in budgetary malfeasance. That’s how a junk-rated school district can “afford” to budget an 18 percent increase in one year – a $1.2 billion increase – even as state finances crumble (covered here).

More importantly, it’s a district that’s morally bankrupt in many respects. The corrupt CEOs, damaging practice of social promotion, deception about student achievement and pervasive accounts of sexual abuse is sufficient evidence of that.

The state’s funding formula protects all of that and more.

Meanwhile, the press is covering the drop in CPS students without mentioning how the new funding formula ensures that more state money flows to the district – which by all rights should be the bigger story.

Maybe they’ll pick up on it later. But it’s already far too late to do anything about it. No amount of pressure will convince lawmakers to change the new funding formula – they’ve invested too much in it.

Tack this up as another reason why the education funding law is the most damaging piece of legislation that Illinois lawmakers have passed in decades.


See our previous work on CPS and the new education funding formula:

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Illinois Entrepreneur
2 years ago

Good article, Ted. But it occurs to me (and many others here, I assume) that funding for “education” isn’t really about students. It’s about increasing compensation for teachers and administrators. And adding extra patronage jobs to make the existing jobs even easier. A principal could always use that extra Assistant Director of Sports Facility Maintenance, you know. CPS and the Chicago Machine knew when they created this funding bill that the enrollment would continue downward. It’s not a stretch to make the assumption that their motivations are entirely self-centered and financially self-fulfilling. One other point. As much good work as… Read more »

Mike Williams
2 years ago

I also enjoy Wirepoints and am thankful this site exists so I can keep up with how desperate the situation is in Illinois. IMO you also are spot on that the average Joe has no idea what’s happening to Illinois and will continue to remain ignorant. They will pay the higher taxes thinking that will fix the problem. They don’t realize that these combined outrageous taxes are not normal in most states. Perhaps they will finally wake up when the excrement finally hits the fan due to a recession and/or the pension funds having completely dried up.

2 years ago

The Chicago Public Schools have nothing to do with education. They are a jobs program for teachers and a way to launder money from the taxpayers to the Democrats