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.
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:
- Chicago leaders’ hypocritical stance on school choice
- Education Funding Bill is a Monstrosity of Unknown Proportions
- “Evidence-based” education funding doesn’t work, would cost illinois taxpayers billions
- CPS pensions: From retirement security to political slush fund
- Busting Forrest Claypool’s 4 big myths about CPS funding
- New education funding plan repeats CPS’ bailout history
- Politifact fumbles fact-check: Education funding proposal is a CPS bailout